Do Pedestrians Always Have The Right Of Way?


Pedestrians are considered vulnerable roadway users in and around the Seattle area. They are vulnerable because it is likely they will sustain severe injuries in the event a collision with a vehicle occurs. In most situations, vehicle drivers are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians on or around the roadway. However, do pedestrians always have the right of way? Are there times when pedestrians can be at fault after an accident occurs?

Pedestrians Have the Right of Way, But Common Sense Applies

In Seattle, pedestrians generally always have the right of way. Vehicle drivers are responsible for yielding to pedestrians at marked and unmarked crosswalks, in parking lots, when turning into alleyways or driveways, and in just about every other area. Legally, pedestrians can step off of a curb and head across the street at any intersection, regardless of the intersection’s traffic or design. 

However, an article published by KING 5 says that pedestrians can and should do their part to help traffic flow in downtown Seattle.

Even though pedestrians typically have the right of way, Washington law also says that when a “Don’t Walk” sign begins flashing, it is illegal for a pedestrian to begin crossing. Even though drivers should be cognizant that pedestrians may continue to try and cross the road, technically, the pedestrian is in the wrong. Does this give the driver the right to plow through the intersection into the driver? 

Of course, it does not. However, this shows that the pedestrian’s right of way is not unlimited.

Pedestrians Should Always Cross Safely

Pedestrians do have a lot of “power” when it comes to right-of-way laws, but that power should not be abused. When a person needs to cross the roadway, they should do so, when possible, at marked intersections with crossing signals. Pedestrians should only walk when the “Walk” light is illuminated because doing so at any other time risks a collision with a vehicle. Even though vehicle drivers should yield to pedestrians crossing the road, pedestrians cannot always count on the intelligence or patience of other drivers.

Additionally, we encourage pedestrians to take basic safety measures when walking around the roadway. This includes:

  • Not walking in or near the roadway while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • Not walking well distracted by a phone or another device
  • Keeping headphones out of ears in order to properly hear any approaching hazards
  • Not horse playing anywhere near traffic

If a pedestrian versus vehicle collision does occur, this does not necessarily mean that the vehicle driver will be at fault for the incident. If the pedestrian was intoxicated, distracted, or otherwise reckless, they could share fault for the incident or even be completely to blame.

However, it is certainly possible for drivers to cause pedestrian collisions outright. Even though most drivers intuitively understand that pedestrians have the right of way, that does not mean that they are happy about it. When drivers are in a hurry, when they are intoxicated, or when they are not paying attention, this significantly increases the chance that a pedestrian accident will occur.

If you or somebody you care about has been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another driver, we encourage you to reach out to a Seattle pedestrian accident lawyer immediately.

Additional Pedestrian Accident Information