Do Pedestrians Have The Right Of Way?

by Elaine SmithApril 24, 2023

In many jurisdictions around the world, pedestrians are afforded certain rights and protections when navigating public spaces. But in most situations, do pedestrians have the right of way? The concept of "right of way" plays a crucial role in ensuring pedestrian safety and fostering a harmonious coexistence between pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.

In this blog, we will delve into the rights of pedestrians and the principles of right of way, providing a thorough understanding of these essential traffic guidelines.

Defining the "Right of Way"

Before we dive into the pedestrian right-of-way, let's first define what right-of-way means.

The term "right of way" refers to the legal priority given to certain road users to proceed or continue their movement in a specific direction. It is a set of rules that determine the flow of traffic and ensure the safety of all road users.

This concept applies to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike, with the primary aim of ensuring safety and reducing accidents or collisions. The right-of-way laws vary by jurisdiction, but they generally prioritize the safety of the most vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians.

Pedestrians and the Right of Way

Pedestrians generally have the right-of-way in most situations. In most jurisdictions, pedestrians enjoy a certain degree of priority over other road users. The law states that drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, whether or not the crosswalk is marked.

This means that if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, drivers must stop and wait for the pedestrian to cross. It is also worth noting that pedestrians have the right-of-way on sidewalks, so drivers should never drive on sidewalks or block them.

Some of the most common scenarios in which pedestrians have the right of way include:


Pedestrians have the right of way at marked and unmarked crosswalks, and motorists must yield to them. This rule applies even if there is no traffic signal at the crosswalk. However, pedestrians must also exercise caution and not enter the crosswalk suddenly, giving drivers reasonable time to react and stop.


When pedestrians are using sidewalks, they have the right of way. Motorists must yield to pedestrians when entering or exiting driveways, alleys, or parking lots that intersect with sidewalks.

Pedestrian Signals

At intersections with traffic signals, pedestrians have the right of way when the "Walk" signal or a green light is displayed. It is important for pedestrians to follow these signals and not cross against them.

Shared-use Paths

On shared-use paths or multi-use trails, pedestrians typically have the right of way. Cyclists and other users must yield to pedestrians and give an audible warning before overtaking or passing.

It is important to note that these general principles may vary slightly between jurisdictions. Whether you’re driving in pedestrian-heavy cities or rural areas, familiarizing yourself with the specific rules and regulations is essential for ensuring compliance and promoting safety.

Pedestrian Responsibilities

While pedestrians often have the right of way, they must also adhere to certain responsibilities to maintain safety on the roads. 

Pedestrians must follow traffic signals, signs, and pedestrian signals to ensure they are crossing roads safely and legally. Additionally, they must remain vigilant and exercise caution when navigating public spaces. This includes being aware of their surroundings and not relying solely on the right of way for their safety.

When Do Pedestrians Not Have the Right-of-Way?

While pedestrians generally have the right-of-way, there are some situations where they do not. Here are some examples:

  • Pedestrians must yield to emergency vehicles, such as ambulances or fire trucks, even if they are in a crosswalk.

  • Pedestrians must not suddenly leave a curb and enter the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

  • Pedestrians must not jaywalk, which means crossing the road at a point other than a marked crosswalk.

So, whether you're a driver or a pedestrian, always remember that safety comes first. By understanding and following these rules, we can prevent accidents and ensure that everyone shares the road safely. 

Let's do our part to keep our roads safe for everyone. Stay alert, stay safe, and always be aware of your surroundings! To learn more about driving tips, vehicle safety, and auto guide, visit Keep Driving today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s shed light on some of the most asked questions about pedestrians’ right of way.

Who has the right of way at an intersection with stop signs?

At a four-way stop intersection, the first vehicle to arrive has the right of way. However, pedestrians at the crosswalk have priority over vehicles. 

Do pedestrians always have the right of way?

While pedestrians often have the right of way, they must also follow traffic signals, signs, and pedestrian signals. In situations where the pedestrian does not have the right of way, they must yield to oncoming traffic.

Can a pedestrian be held responsible for an accident?

Yes, pedestrians can be held responsible if their actions contribute to an accident. Both pedestrians and drivers have a duty to exercise caution and follow traffic regulations.























Managing Editor Before joining Keep Driving, Elaine was an editor for an international internet technology consulting firm. She shows tremendous interest in writing about future technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learnings.
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