Two Things You Thought You Knew About Jaywalking

Posted by Schauermann Thayer | May 05, 2021 | 0 Comments


It is often said that motorists must always be mindful of pedestrians and that pedestrians have the right-of-way regardless if he or she is jaywalking. These assumptions, however, in the State of Washington and Oregon are generally false.

There's more to it than a pedestrian being able to cross the road wherever and whenever he or she wants and the motorist being liable for an accident simply because he or she is in a vehicle. Here we bring to light the truth of the matter by debunking these myths about pedestrian rights and motorist responsibilities.

Myth #1: Pedestrians Always Have The Right-of-Way.

Pedestrians do not always have the right-of-way, especially when jaywalking. In fact, there are traffic rules pedestrians must follow -- much like the traffic rules motorists must follow.

In Washington State, the law states specifically that:

  • drivers must stop at intersections to allow pedestrians (and bicyclists) to cross the road, and these intersections can either be marked or unmarked crosswalks (RCW 46.61.235);
  • drivers (and bicyclists) must also yield to pedestrians on sidewalks (RCW 46.61.261), but
  • pedestrians unless pedestrians are directed by a traffic or police officer, they are responsible for obeying traffic signals and traffic control devices (RCW 46.61.050).

In Oregon, the laws are quite similar and state specifically that:

  • drivers must stop for pedestrians in any intersection to allow them to cross the road completely, and these intersections can either be marked or unmarked crosswalks (ORS 814.040), but
  • pedestrians must obey traffic signals and traffic control devices -- they must stop and not cross the road at a red and yellow light or when directed by a traffic control device to "Wait" or "Don't Walk," (ORS 814.010) unless
  • pedestrians are directed by a traffic or police officer to do something contrary to the traffic signal or traffic control device (ORS 814.010).

Knowing when a pedestrian has a right-of-way becomes challenging when the pedestrian was obeying the traffic control device but the device's signal or message changes (e.g., to "Wait" or "Don't Walk") while the pedestrian is in the intersection.

In this circumstance, the pedestrian should find a place of safety, like a traffic island, and wait until he or she has the right-of-way again.



Myth #2: Motorists Must Always Yield to Pedestrians.

Motorists owe a responsibility to everyone on the road, including pedestrians, to exercise care and caution (RCW 46.61.245 and ORS 811.005), but pedestrians must also yield to vehicles.

In Washington and Oregon, the laws state that:

  • pedestrians crossing a road must yield the right-of-way to vehicles if they are crossing a road at a point not constituting an intersection or a marked or unmarked crosswalk (RCW 46.61.240 and ORS 814.030), and
  • pedestrians cannot bolt into the traffic or otherwise leave a curb to go into traffic when the circumstances would not allow a driver to stop in time before colliding with the pedestrian (RCW 46.61.235 and 0RS 814.040).

As you can see, jaywalking is not an acceptable excuse in pedestrian accidents. The responsibility is on all parties using the roadways in Washington State and Oregon. If you are in a traffic or pedestrian accident and suffer injuries, you may be able to recover damages even if you were in part at fault (except in Oregon if it is determined you are 51 percent or more at fault, you cannot recover). Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to find out if you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries.


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