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Who has the right of way in a crosswalk: a driver turning right or a pedestrian in the crosswalk?

It depends. There is no one simple law that answers this question. It depends on multiple factors and multiple rules. The bottom line is that neither party has an absolute right of way at all times.

I crossed in a crosswalk. Did I have the right of way?

Not necessarily. Pedestrians must follow certain rules of the road, just as the vehicles do [RCW § 46.61.235].

This means that pedestrians do not have the right to step out into traffic and expect vehicles to come to a screeching halt. Consider this: a driver is halfway through making a right turn on red when you see that you have a walk signal. Do you have the right of way? Likely no, because you must still wait for the driver to finish his turn before entering the roadway. If you step in front of his car simply because you have the walk sign, you are violating R.C.W. § 46.61.235.

You also do not have the right of way if you crossed against a crossing signal.

You do have the right of way if you had the walk signal and began crossing before a driver started his turn.

I was already walking across the street when the car began turning. Did I have the right of way?

Whether you have the right of way in this situation depends on whether you had the walk signal and whether the driver was turning on red or green.

In either case, a driver must stop when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk that is in the lane in which the driver is driving, and any other lane of traffic on that half of the roadway [RCW § 46.61.235]. The driver must remain stopped until you have left the roadway.

This is true even if you were crossing against a walk signal. However, if you are injured in a pedestrian accident, you will likely share liability as you were disobeying traffic signals.

I crossed outside of a crosswalk. Did I have right of way?

Not likely. When a pedestrian is crossing a road at any place other than in a crosswalk, the pedestrian must yield right of way to all vehicles that are on the roadway, according to RCW § 46.61.240.

If a pedestrian jumps out into traffic in the middle of a block, the driver is not likely to be liable if he could not stop in time to avoid hitting the jaywalking pedestrian. However, under RCW § 46.61.245, drivers must “exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway.”

The statute also gives right of way to drivers turning right when:

  • A pedestrian crosses an intersection diagonally unless specifically authorized
  • A pedestrian crosses in violation of a sign or signal prohibiting crossing at a particular location

I crossed in an unmarked crosswalk. Did I have the right of way?

In many cases, there are four crosswalks at an intersection. This is true regardless of whether the crosswalk has painted lines or nothing at all.

Determining whether you had the right of way in an unmarked crosswalk is more complicated because there may not be walk signals. Pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk; to determine whether you had the right of way, you need to consider whether he turned on red or green and whether he had enough time to stop after you entered the roadway.

Do pedestrians or drivers of emergency vehicles have the right of way?

Pedestrians must yield right of way to emergency vehicles per RCW § 46.61.264.

A pedestrian can be liable for failure to yield right of way to a right turning emergency vehicle. However, if the pedestrian was already in the crosswalk when the emergency vehicle began its approach, the emergency vehicle must wait for the pedestrian to finish crossing.

Where can I get help after a pedestrian accident?

As you can see, right of way laws concerning right turns and pedestrians in crosswalks are complex. If you have been injured in an accident involving a pedestrian in a crosswalk, seek the advice of an auto accident attorney. These accidents often involve serious, even catastrophic injuries. At Max Meyers Law PLLC, we will evaluate your claim and explain your legal rights.

Call us today at 425-242-5595 to schedule your free consultation.

Max Meyers
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.