It is important for all road users – pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists alike – to know and adhere to the traffic laws that apply to them. Some of the most important traffic laws that affect pedestrians are those related to crosswalks and the right-of-way. New Jersey and Pennsylvania legislatures enacted these right-of-way and crosswalk laws to protect the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.
When people fail to follow them, such as when they do not yield right-of-way or jaywalk, the risk of injury or death in a collision skyrockets. In fact, a pedestrian sustained injury in a traffic incident every eight minutes in America in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Even worse, every two hours in 2013, a pedestrian died in an accident. All of these injuries and deaths were completely preventable. Citizens could save thousands of lives if they would simply pay attention when travelling and stick to the rules of the road.
Below, we discuss some of the main right-of-way and crosswalk laws pedestrians should be aware of. It is important to note that rules may vary slightly from state to state.
For detailed laws and regulations in your home state, check with the appropriate state department. In PA, visit the Pennsylvania DOT; in NJ, visit the Division of Highway Traffic Safety (DHTS).
For inquiries related to accidents, liability, legal rights, and pedestrian injury claims, call our pedestrian accident attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC for a free consult today: 215-642-2335.
When do pedestrians have right-of-way?
Under right-of-way laws, pedestrians have the right-of-way whenever they are in a crosswalk if they are following traffic and crosswalk signals. If a pedestrian walks against a traffic signal, he is violating the law.
Pedestrians always have the right-of-way at unmarked crosswalks not managed by traffic lights or signals. In these situations, drivers still must yield to pedestrians, and allow them to pass before continuing through the intersection.
In addition, when a car is yielding to a pedestrian on a crosswalk or at an intersection, the law prohibits other vehicles from overtaking and passing the vehicle. According to a New Jersey crosswalk law, enacted in 2010, drivers must come to a complete stop, not just yield, if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.
Additionally, pedestrians have the right-of-way if they are on a sidewalk that crosses the following:
- other avenue that is accessible by vehicles
Pedestrians, regardless of whether they have the right-of-way, should always look for motorists before stepping into the street. Pedestrians may not step off the curb into the path of a vehicle that does not have the time to stop.
When do motorists have right-of-way?
Pedestrians do not always have the right-of-way. If they are not crossing a street at an intersection, crosswalk, or overhead pedestrian tunnel, it is the driver – not the pedestrian – that has right-of-way. The DHTS provides: “Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.”
Drivers also have the right-of-way when pedestrians are walking on the side of a road or street. By law, pedestrians must use a sidewalk or shoulder, if one is available. If one is not, they must walk only on the left side (facing traffic), as far from the road as possible.
What are the penalties for violating the crosswalk laws in PA and NJ?
Drivers and pedestrians that fail to adhere to crosswalk laws are putting themselves at risk in three ways:
1. Injury/death – The danger of a pedestrian not yielding right-of-way to a driver is obvious. Walking in the path of a moving vehicles is a recipe for injury or fatality.
2. Civil penalties – Both PA and NJ impose fines and other penalties on all road users that break crosswalk/right-of-way laws. For instance, if law enforcement sees you violating these laws, motorists can receive a $200 fine, up to 15 days of community service, and two points on your driver’s license, not to mention surcharges on your insurance. Pedestrians may receive a $54 ticket.
3. Liability – If you violate crosswalk laws and subsequently end up in a traffic accident, an investigation could find you liable for victims’ damages and you might disqualify yourself from compensation for your own injuries.
Why do right-of-way laws matter in a pedestrian accident case?
Right-of-way laws are important when filing a pedestrian accident case because violations often mean negligence. As briefly mentioned above, when you violate roadway rules, you could be liable for damages in the event of an accident, including both your damages and others’ damages.
After an accident there are essentially two routes of recovery:
- Your own insurer – With minor injuries, you might be able to just file an insurance claim with your own auto insurer to recover your losses.
- From the other party – With severe injuries or fatalities, you will probably want to seek fuller recovery by filing a claim or suit against the other party. The caveat to this second option is that if you are at-fault because you were breaking traffic rules, you may not be entitled to seek recovery from the other party.
Serious pedestrian accidents, like all types of personal injury cases, hinge on negligence; the party most at-fault will be responsible for paying for damages. So, if you were at-fault for failing to yield right-of-way, you greatly limit your recovery options.
Note: In an accident where you are partly responsible, you can still party recover. Both PA and NJ adhere to what is called the Modified Comparative Fault Rule. This rule states that you can still recover damages so long as you are less than 51 percent at-fault. Your degree of fault, however, will reduce your settlement.
Here is an example. Let us say you broke crosswalk rules, jaywalked, and got hit by a car. The driver of that car was texting at the time of the collision and did not look up in time to stop before hitting you. The insurance company finds each of you 50 percent at-fault for the accident, and your damages total $100,000. You can still file a claim, but your settlement would only be $50,000. Breaking the crosswalk rule in this instance just cost you $50,000.
Where can I get legal help after a pedestrian accident?
For legal help from a pedestrian accident attorney in PA or NJ, call Cordisco & Saile LLC. We can quickly assess your case, explain your options, and help you secure the fullest recovery possible.
Contact us today at 215-642-2335 to schedule a free consultation.