Pedestrian Laws in Washington Everybody Needs to Know

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The Washington Department of Transportation's (WDOT) 2014 Annual Crash Statistics Report recorded 2,093 pedestrians involved in auto accidents. Of these accidents, 78 resulted in fatalities and another 306 caused serious injuries.

There are many Washington laws to help protect pedestrians, but they are only effective when both drivers and pedestrians know the rights and responsibilities imposed by these laws. For legal help after a pedestrian accident, contact Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000 to schedule a free consultation.

What are the pedestrian accident laws in Washington?

The Revised Code of Washington, Washington Administrative Code, and Seattle Municipal Code contain Washington's pedestrian laws. The following is a general look at Washington's pedestrian accident laws.

Who is considered a pedestrian?

The term "pedestrian" is not limited to people who are walking. There are many other types of mobility that fall into the definition of pedestrian. Bicyclists are not pedestrians, although they share some similar laws.

Where can pedestrians walk?

In an area where sidewalks are present, a pedestrian must walk on the provided sidewalk unless something is obstructing the path. In the event there is no sidewalk, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the roadway or the shoulder while facing traffic. If an oncoming vehicle is entering your path, you should step aside to allow the vehicle to pass. In the event the sidewalk does not have wheelchair access, pedestrians in wheelchairs may ride on the adjacent roadway going against the flow of traffic.

Where can pedestrians legally cross the road?

The first option for crossing the road should be at a crosswalk. Crosswalks are marked or unmarked paths and provide safe crossing areas at intersections. If you are crossing outside of a crosswalk, you must do so in a straight line and while yielding to approaching traffic.

If traffic control signals are in operation between adjacent intersections, a pedestrian may not cross at any point except a marked crosswalk unless instructed to do so by a traffic control officer. If you ignore the presence of traffic signals, you could receive a citation for jaywalking.

When do pedestrians have the right of way?

Pedestrians crossing within marked or unmarked crosswalks have the right of way, and drivers must wait until the pedestrian has crossed to the point of the crosswalk that he is in the path of the other half of the roadway.

Skateboarders or roller skaters must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians sharing the sidewalk or public path. These types of pedestrians must also travel at a safe speed to be able to stop easily upon approaching a pedestrian.

Bicyclists must also yield right of way to a pedestrian on a sidewalk or a crosswalk.

When do vehicles have the right of way?

If a pedestrian is crossing a road at a point other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk, the pedestrian must yield the right of way to the approaching vehicles. Furthermore, pedestrians must take care not to leave the curb or shoulder of the road and run into traffic in a manner that makes it impossible for an approaching driver to stop.

How do pedestrians follow traffic signals?

Pedestrians must follow pedestrian control signals when they are present. You must follow these signals at all times. If no pedestrian signals are present or operational, vehicles must yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing on their side of the roadway.

What else do I need to know about my rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian?

  • If you are blind and walk with the use of a white cane or guide dog, vehicles must take extra precautions to give you full right of way while crossing a roadway.
  • Drivers cannot enter the crosswalk at any point when a blind person is within the crosswalk.
  • Pedestrians are not allowed to cross a roadway in a diagonal path unless instructed to do so by traffic control devices or officers.
  • Bicyclists attempting to pass a pedestrian traveling in the same direction must give an audible signal that they are approaching.
  • Vehicles posing an imminent threat to a pedestrian must give an audible warning to alert the pedestrian.

How can I stay safe while walking in Washington?

Along with following these laws, pedestrians can help improve their personal safety by following these tips:

  • Never wear noise-canceling headphones or listen to music at a volume that blocks your ability to hear oncoming traffic or emergency sirens.
  • Wear light colored clothing or carry a light or reflector when walking in low-light conditions.
  • Give yourself ample time to cross the road and if you do not think you can cross in time, return to the median rather than trying to run across the second half of the road.
  • Do not walk while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

What do I do if I am hit by a car while walking?

Pedestrians and bicyclists are at a disadvantage when they collide with a vehicle. These types of accidents typically result in severe injuries to the walker or rider because they have less to protect them from the force of the car.

The first thing to do after a car hits you is to seek medical attention. Once you begin recovery, contact a Washington pedestrian and bicycle accident lawyer to discuss your rights to recovery. And review our page that reviews in more detail what to do if a car hit you as a pedestrian in Seattle.

Contact Max Meyers Law to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your right to recovery after a pedestrian accident: 425-399-7000.

When you work with the Max Meyers Law team, we review your situation and identify any applicable laws in your claim. Regardless if you broke a pedestrian law, if the driver was acting more negligent than you, you might still be entitled to damages for your injuries. 

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