Do Pedestrians Have The Right Of Way?

do pedestrians have the right of way

Pedestrian traffic deaths are at historically high levels in the United States. Preliminary data from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) suggests 2021 is on track to record more people killed by vehicles while walking than in any one of the last 40 years.

Auto pedestrian accidents often occur when a motorist does not properly yield the right of way to a pedestrian. Knowing who has the right of way in a given traffic situation can help both drivers and walkers, joggers, cyclists, and more from getting hurt.

Pedestrian Accident Statistics

The GHSA estimates 7,485 pedestrians were killed in 2021. The number represents an 11.5 percent increase over 2020 figures. The fatality rate for pedestrians has grown much faster than the fatality rates for other types of traffic accidents. In the ten-year period between 2010 and 2020, the pedestrian fatality rate increased 54 percent, while the increase for all other types of traffic fatalities grew by 13 percent.

Fatal pedestrian accidents in Texas are following the trend of the rest of the country. According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), pedestrian deaths now account for one in five traffic fatalities in the state. Between 2019 and 2021, pedestrian traffic fatalities increased almost 25 percent, from 661 in 2019 to 841 in 2021.

Factors Contributing to Pedestrian Accidents

Darkness is a significant contributing factor to pedestrian accidents. The rate of pedestrians struck while walking at night is almost four times greater than for pedestrians walking during the day. Vehicle speed and consumption of alcohol can also contribute to the likelihood of pedestrian accidents.

In Texas, the top factors identified as contributing to crashes with pedestrians are:

  • A driver fails to yield the right of way to a pedestrian
  • Driver inattention or distraction
  • Driver speeding

When Pedestrians Have the Right of Way in Texas

The Texas Transportation Code gives pedestrians the right of way in various traffic situations, and vehicles must yield to pedestrians in the following circumstances:

  • A pedestrian facing a green light in either a marked or unmarked crosswalk
  • A pedestrian crossing a roadway facing a ‘walk’ signal
  • A pedestrian in a crosswalk with no traffic signal and in front of a vehicle or close enough to be in danger
  • A pedestrian approaching on a sidewalk to cross an alley, building entrance or exit, road, or driveway
  • A pedestrian guided by a service animal or using a white cane and attempting to cross an intersection or crosswalk in front of a vehicle

In most cases, pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the street at a crosswalk, whether marked or unmarked. When a pedestrian is crossing at an intersection with traffic signals, they generally have the right of way when the “walk” signal is displayed. Pedestrians also have the right of way when crossing in a marked crosswalk or on a sidewalk. Even if a pedestrian has the right of way, it’s still the driver’s responsibility to be aware of their surroundings and to exercise caution to avoid an accident. Drivers should always be prepared to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, especially when they are crossing at a crosswalk or a marked crosswalk.

General Duties of Drivers When Pedestrians are Present

Although pedestrians do not always have the right of way, vehicles are bigger and move faster and therefore have the primary responsibility for avoiding an auto pedestrian accident. The Texas Transportation Code requires all vehicle operators to:

  • Use reasonable care not to hit pedestrians
  • Sound their horn to warn pedestrians if necessary
  • Use extra caution when children or obviously impaired or disabled persons are on the road

Whether or not a pedestrian had the right of way after an accident may help the pedestrian or their family to recover compensation but it won’t prevent the pedestrian’s injuries or save their life. Pedestrians are at the mercy of vehicles with drivers who are distracted or are not obeying the laws. Unfortunately, even when pedestrians have the right of way, there is no guarantee that a vehicle will yield. And the human body is no match for 3,000 plus pounds of moving metal.

Walking is a fundamental form of transportation and should not have to be a life-threatening experience. Pedestrians are not able to change driver behavior, so drivers must be extra cautious in areas they know pedestrians will be present. Most auto-pedestrian accidents occur in urban areas like busy city centers with lots of traffic. They also commonly happen at intersections, especially those without crosswalks and/or traffic lights and on roads with poor lighting and/or without sidewalks. In addition, drivers must exercise extreme caution in areas with high pedestrian traffic, such as near schools, parks, neighborhoods, and public transportation stops.

Pedestrian Accident Injuries

The most common pedestrian accident injuries include head injuries, broken bones, and internal injuries. Head injuries – such as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – can range from mild concussions to severe brain damage and will often result in long-term effects. Broken bones, particularly in the legs and feet, are also common. Internal injuries, such as damage to the lungs, liver, and spleen, can occur because of blunt force trauma and can be life-threatening. Other auto pedestrian injuries that can occur include cuts, bruises, and road rash. In severe cases, an accident can result in death.

Dallas Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

No one can determine how much a pedestrian accident claim is worth unless and until they have fully analyzed the facts of a particular case. However, most pedestrians hurt in a car crash caused by someone else can file a claim for financial compensation. The amount of damages you can recover will depend on the nature and severity of your injuries, among other factors.

If you or someone you love was the victim of driver negligence in a pedestrian accident, there are Texas laws that protect your rights. Pedestrians hit by cars often suffer serious injuries that will require ongoing medical care. To learn more about how you can take legal action in Dallas and beyond, contact our car accident lawyer in Dallas, Julie Wolf, as soon as possible to discuss your pedestrian accident case. Our legal team will work hard to help you seek fair compensation.