Wheels vs. Heels: Who Has Right of Way?

In 2015 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a report stating that on average, a pedestrian was killed every 1.6 hours and injured every 7.5 minutes in traffic accidents in the United States. It also reported that after California and Florida, Texas had the third highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country.

The question of who has the right of way in Texas—pedestrians or motorists—has practically developed into a turf war between both sides. A prevalent and dangerous myth is that pedestrians can walk wherever they want and the onus is on drivers to watch out for them and give way. Nothing could be further than the truth: as children, we were told to look both ways before crossing for a reason.

This pedestrian-centric assumption can be attributed in part to the fact that the law requires drivers to exercise reasonable care to avoid pedestrians at all times, even if people are jaywalking or otherwise breaking a traffic law. This is not the same thing as jaywalking onto the road with impunity.

The Law and Pedestrians

Pedestrian laws are detailed in Title 7 Chapter 552 of the Texas Transportation Code. To summarize the relevant sections:

  • When faced with a “walk” signal, pedestrians may proceed across the street. Vehicles must yield the right of way.
  • If a pedestrian has partly crossed a street when the signal turns to “Don’t Walk,” they are permitted to proceed to safety.
  • Pedestrians have right of way at crosswalks if there is no operating control signal present and the person is either on the same side of the road as the car or is approaching the same side of the road at an unsafe speed (e.g. running).
  • Pedestrians must always yield the right of way to cars on highways.
  • Children getting off or on a school bus always have the right of way.

The law does not permit a pedestrian to suddenly leave a roadside or curb and step into the path of an oncoming vehicle at such a close proximity that the car cannot stop.

The Law and Motor Vehicles

Texas drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care when driving. This means using their car horns to alert pedestrians when necessary, watching out for children playing or running around roadways, and exercising care to avoid hitting pedestrians. If, for example, a pedestrian suddenly darts into busy traffic to attempt suicide and a driver can’t safely turn in time, that driver will not be held responsible if the person dies as planned. However, motorists who injure or kill someone else while driving under the influence, texting, or speeding will face serious repercussions.

If you are injured in a pedestrian-vehicle collision, the consequences can be devastating. Medical bills, loss of wages, and pain and suffering are all potentially compensable damages, so contact a Texas personal injury attorney with extensive experience in the field.

The Sharp Firm understands that pedestrians are vulnerable and much more likely than motorists to be seriously injured, even killed, when an accident occurs. You have rights, and we are prepared to fight for them. To schedule a case review, please contact us today.