Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way in New York?

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In 2014 alone, 485 car accidents involving pedestrians occurred in Erie County. While there can be variations in how these accidents occur, determining who had the right-of-way is one method of deciding who is at fault and liable for damages when a pedestrian is involved. As such, understanding right-of-way laws in Buffalo, New York can help reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries. Our experienced car accident lawyers here at The Coppola Firm can help if you are involved in one of these accidents.

Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right-of-Way in New York?

Pedestrian safety is paramount, and the state of New York takes this seriously by enacting stringent traffic laws. But do pedestrians always have the right-of-way in New York? The answer is no, not always. Much depends on the location and the presence of traffic control signals or stop signs.

Specifically, pedestrians do have the right-of-way in certain circumstances. These circumstances occur at all crosswalks and intersections with marked or unmarked crosswalks. Pedestrians should wait until the Walk message displays on a pedestrian traffic signal before crossing the roadway in front of traffic. Failing to do so is called jaywalking and could result in a moving vehicle being unable to stop in time, often resulting in injuries and fatalities.

While particular traffic laws are more favorable for pedestrians, New York law (Section 1152) also states that motor vehicles maintain the right-of-way wherever there are no crosswalks. In other words, pedestrians are responsible for yielding to motor vehicles whenever they cross a roadway at a spot, place, or location that does not contain a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

The one exclusion, however, is that all drivers should slow down and yield to blind pedestrians identified as so with a white cane or guide dog. Even if the person is crossing in a manner that is illegal for a sighted individual, drivers must remain cautious and yield to blind pedestrians.

Understanding laws regarding right-of-way in New York is essential for both drivers and pedestrians today. While staying cautious around pedestrians is good practice, if an accident occurs, you need to understand who is potentially liable or responsible. Pedestrians in New York do not always have the right-of-way. Before making a claim, you must review traffic and pedestrian laws.

How is Right-of-Way Defined in New York?

Right-of-way is the legal precedent for who goes first on the road. It is defined as the legal right of a vehicle or pedestrian to proceed ahead of another. Right-of-way is often dependent on the location or situation. When understood fully, following the right-of-way reduces potential collisions and helps protect you from harm.

These right-of-way laws go one step beyond the expectation that motorists exercise due care to avoid a collision in New York. Due care refers to an acceptable standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation or under similar circumstances.

Practicing due care while adhering to right-of-way laws benefits everyone on the road, from motorists to bicyclists to pedestrians. However, those involved in a vehicular accident may need the legal advice of a New York personal injury lawyer to help determine which party is at fault and how to make a claim.

Who Has Right-of-Way at a Crosswalk in New York?

Whether you are the driver of a vehicle who often approaches intersections where pedestrians cross or you are a pedestrian using these crosswalks yourself, it is essential to know when to yield. You may have once heard that “pedestrians always have the right-of-way.” If so, it can either make you overly cautious as a driver or, as a pedestrian, embolden you to cross a roadway at an intersection confidently. Yet, who really has the right-of-way at a crosswalk in New York?

In most instances, the right-of-way is clear, especially at a marked crosswalk controlled by traffic and pedestrian signals. Yet, when you approach an unmarked intersection, confusion often surrounds the rights and duties of the driver and the person walking. When this happens, remember that New York considers every intersection to have crosswalks. This is true regardless of whether or not those crosswalks are identified clearly by lines or traffic control devices like walk signals.

As for duties and responsibilities, pedestrians will have the right-of-way at all marked and unmarked crosswalks across New York unless there is a Do Not Walk sign. If the pedestrian is already in the crosswalk when the Do Not Walk sign activates, they have the right-of-way until they reach the other side of that roadway.

What Should I Do If I am in a Pedestrian Accident?

The immediate aftermath of an accident can be confusing, and knowing what to do next may not be clear to you. Here are the steps to take if you are involved in a pedestrian accident.

Do Not Leave the Scene

Following an accident, do not leave the scene for any reason. Leaving the scene of an accident prematurely can result in misdemeanor charges or worse. You may be deemed responsible for the accident, even if that is not the case.

Protect Your Safety

Take measures to protect your safety. Use a road flare, flashlight, or your vehicle’s hazard lights to alert other drivers if it is dark. Flashing hazard lights or a flashlight set on the hood of your motor vehicle will catch the eye of approaching traffic and cause them to slow and remain alert. If possible, move to a place of safety as far away from the roadway and traffic as you can without losing eye contact with the accident scene.

Call 911

As soon as possible following an accident, call 911 and request first responder assistance to your location. There will need to be a police report filed, and the police will also determine if an ambulance is necessary after assessing the well-being of everyone involved.

Document the Accident

Observe the accident scene as best as you can and document it to help back up your claim. To document the accident, try to do the following:

  • Take pictures at the scene, including photos of the involved vehicles, any sustained injuries to your body, and the location of the accident, including any designated crosswalks, pedestrian signals, stop signs, and traffic lights.
  • Record the other party’s information, including license plate and insurance details.
  • Collect witness contact information, including their full name and phone number.
  • Take notes on what happened before and after the accident. Was there a red light or green light? Were you already in the pedestrian crossing when the signal changed?

Seek Any Necessary Treatment

If you have sustained an injury or believe you may have been hurt in the accident, seek necessary treatment immediately. Some symptoms of injuries may not occur until later. If this happens, seek medical care as soon as you can. Pedestrian crashes often result in severe injuries, including head trauma and broken bones. It is essential to have medical documentation for insurance claims and, if necessary, for personal injury lawsuits.

female EMS helping a man in an ambulance

Consult a Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer

Schedule a consultation with a Buffalo car accident lawyer as soon as you can so you can understand your rights and legal options.

While both drivers of motor vehicles and pedestrians can practice preventive measures and caution to prevent collisions, sometimes these accidents still happen. If you are involved in a pedestrian accident, you can benefit from seeking the help of an experienced New York personal injury attorney.

Learn Your Rights and Options Today

If you sustain an injury in a pedestrian accident, you need to know your rights and what options are available. Whether the accident is related to right-of-way or another cause, a New York pedestrian accident attorney at The Coppola Firm can provide the legal advice you need, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if required, represent you in a lawsuit. 

The Coppola Firm is proud to be one of Buffalo’s only woman-owned personal injury law firms. Our attorneys have spent years working in the New York legal system and have gained valuable first-hand insights that can help your case. Our office is on the ground floor with free parking, making it as convenient and accessible as possible for our clients. 

To find out how The Coppola Firm can help you, call 716-839-9700 to schedule a free consultation or submit our convenient contact form online.

Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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