Pedestrians versus motor vehicles — know the laws

I haven’t written an article dealing with pedestrian rights since last year, and from feedback I have been receiving, it is time to review some of the applicable laws for both pedestrians and motor vehicles. Following are answers to various situations that I hope are helpful to everyone to better understand how these laws apply.

1. At a residential village intersection, with no crosswalks painted on either street and controlled by stop signs on the busier of the two streets, a pedestrian is positioned to cross the busier street. What rights does the pedestrian have?

Answer -?First, the pedestrian cannot step into the street when an approaching vehicle is so close as to be unable to stop. However, any vehicle far enough from the pedestrian to be able to stop must do so, yielding the right-of-way to the pedestrian.

2. A driver approaching an intersection and facing a green light intends to make a left turn. There are no vehicles approaching from the other direction, but there is a pedestrian about to cross the street that the driver wishes to turn into. Who must yield to whom? Answer – because the motorist is turning, he/she must yield to the pedestrian who is crossing on a green light. The same would be true for the driver turning right, who also must yield to any pedestrian crossing the street into which the driver is turning.

3. A pedestrian wishes to cross a street in the middle of the block. What rights does this pedestrian have? Answer – The pedestrian has NO rights in this situation. He/she must wait for traffic to be clear in both directions, and be able to complete the cross without interfering with any motor vehicle. The pedestrian must also yield to bicycles.

4. A pedestrian is crossing an intersection controlled by a three-color traffic light but without pedestrian signals. When may the pedestrian cross? Answer?-?when the street he/she is crossing has a red signal, and the street he/she is walking along has a green signal, the pedestrian may cross. In this case, similar to example No. 1, any motor vehicle or bicycle turning right or left on a green light must yield the right-of-way to the pedestrian.

5. A pedestrian must cross a street at a signalized intersection that also has a pedestrian walk signal. Is it legal for the pedestrian to cross against the pedestrian signal but with the green light?

Answer -?NO! If the intersection has a pedestrian signal, the only time the pedestrian may legally cross is when he/she has a “walk” signal.

6. At a fully protected intersection, complete with pedestrian walk signals, may the pedestrian cross diagonally upon receiving the “walk” signal? Answer – NO! It is illegal to cross any intersection diagonally unless the intersection is signed and has pavement markings to allow diagonal crossing. No intersection that I am aware of anywhere in upstate New York allows diagonal crossing (This is referred to as “Jay Walking”).

7. A pedestrian is crossing a four-lane street on a marked crosswalk but not controlled by a traffic signal. A motor vehicle in the inside lane has stopped to allow the pedestrian to cross. Can a vehicle traveling in the same direction as the stopped vehicle but in the outside lane continue across the crosswalk?

Answer?- NO! If any vehicle is stopped for a pedestrian, it is illegal to pass that stopped vehicle in another lane.

The preceding are just several examples of some common situations that deal with pedestrians versus motor vehicles. Hopefully this is helpful to everyone.

For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board’s web site at: and click on “Traffic Safety Board” under departments then look for Did You Know articles under “services.”