Crosswalk Safety in Washington & Oregon 

Posted by Scott A. Staples | Jul 28, 2021 | 0 Comments


This summer and fall, with nicer weather and folks emerging in public from COVID-induced hibernation, pedestrian/crosswalk safety is vitally important. 

A good summary of many areas of the law can be found in the pattern jury instructions that we lawyers use when in trial. These are often given, verbatim, by the judge to the jury to explain the law of the case.

Rules About Crosswalks

Some that are applicable here, designed to keep pedestrians safe, are:

A driver of a vehicle approaching a crosswalk has a duty of continuous observation.
The driver of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon (or within one lane of the half of) the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.
A pedestrian within a crosswalk has the right to assume that all drivers of approaching vehicles will yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian. This right continues until the pedestrian knows otherwise, or until surrounding circumstances should have alerted the pedestrian to the fact that an approaching vehicle is not going to yield the right-of-way. Absent such circumstances, a pedestrian within a crosswalk has no duty to look for approaching vehicles.
A crosswalk exists not only where marked but at every intersection of roadways, regardless of whether the roadway is marked with crosswalk lines.


The Law Always Favors Pedestrians

The law definitely favors the pedestrian in and near a crosswalk, and with good reason- they are not protected by a heavy metal vehicle. Drivers who don't obey the laws on crosswalks can face fines,  criminal charges, and/or a civil lawsuit, depending on the outcome of their violation. 

I'll finish with a personal observation from handling injury cases involving crosswalks. Sometimes I think people are more focused on their perceived/actual rights of way (or their phones!), rather than the real-world consequences of their actions.

As a pedestrian, your right-of-way isn't going to do much good if you are struck by a driver who is not paying attention. As a driver, you're not going to be able to sleep easy at night if you injure or kill a pedestrian, regardless of whether they were crossing in the proper place, if paying more attention and driving with more care could have prevented the collision. Attention and caution should rule the day in both roles.  


About the Author

Scott A. Staples

Scott Staples came on board in 2006 as a clerk during law school, and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2007. He was made a shareholder in the firm in 2010. Scott graduated, cum laude, from Washington State University Vancouver with a BA in English, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from Willamette University College of Law, with cum laude honors there as well. He has successfully represented clients in a variety of different types of injury cases, including auto collisions, premises liability, animal attacks, watercraft accidents, and construction site injuries. He has appeared, and won, before the Washington State Supreme Court (Weismann v. Safeco, 2012). Scott has volunteered time for the past several years at the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Housing Justice Project. He has previously served on the new member and membership committees for the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ), and has acted as chair and co-chair of the WSAJ Clark County Roundtable. He is a member of the Washington and Oregon State Bar Associations, WSAJ and OTLA (state trial lawyer organizations), and is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Washington and Oregon. Scott was born and raised in Vancouver, attending Vancouver public schools and graduating from Hudson's Bay High School. He enjoys playing recreational basketball and softball, skiing, and spending time with his wife and three children.


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