Warmer weather means busier roads, but it's not only other cars and trucks that New York drivers have to watch out for.

Roughly 15,000 pedestrians are injured in New York state each year, and pedestrian traffic accidents are consistently one of the most likely causes of injury or death for any New York resident of nearly every age group. Knowing when pedestrians have the right of way (and when they don't) can help keep everyone safer.

Crosswalks, traffic lights, and pedestrian trraffic signals all play a role in right-of-way rules (Google)
Crosswalks, traffic lights, and pedestrian trraffic signals all play a role in right-of-way rules (Google)
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Pedestrian Right of Way in New York State

Who has the right-of-way (and when) all depends on where you live. I remember visiting relatives in New Jersey as a child and hearing stories about how cars had to slam on their brakes and let a pedestrian cross the street wherever they were, even if it wasn't in a crosswalk or an intersection. But what about New York?

Robi_J via Canva
Robi_J via Canva
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When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way in New York?

When there's a "pedestrian traffic signal", i.e. the box with the red hand and white walk symbol, pedestrians always have the right-of-way when the signal shows "walk". If there's a crosswalk but no pedestrian traffic signal, pedestrians are required to follow the traffic lights of vehicles traveling in the same direction, meaning that pedestrians may not cross in a crosswalk if crossing vehicles have a green light (below).

In this instance, the pedestrian must wait to cross, as crossing traffic has a green light (Google)
In this instance, the pedestrian must wait to cross, as crossing traffic has a green light (Google)
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What if There's No Crosswalk?

If there's no pedestrian signal or traffic light, vehicles must always yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. This includes an absence of stop signs as well. But when is a crosswalk considered a crosswalk? It's a little complicated.

Even though it's not painted on the road, this intersection is considered to have a crosswalk since it's an intersection of roads (Google)
Even though it's not painted on the road, this intersection is considered to have a crosswalk since it's an intersection of roads (Google)
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What is Considered a Crosswalk in New York?

According to New York traffic laws, crosswalks exist even if it isn't painted on the pavement (above). State legislation describes a crosswalk as "any part of the road at an intersection between the curbs on opposite sides of the roadway or, if there are no curbs, between the edges of the road." But what about pedestrians crossing in the middle of a road instead of an intersection?

Since there is no painted crosswalk or an intersection, vehicles have the right of way instead of pedestrians (Google)
Since there is no painted crosswalk or an intersection, vehicles have the right of way instead of pedestrians (Google)
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Who Has the Right of Way When There's No Crosswalk

Unlike the rumors I heard about New Jersey as a child, it's motorists, not pedestrians, who have the right of way in New York when pedestrians attempt to cross a street outside of a crosswalk. To put it plainly, "motorists have the right of way at all locations other than marked and unmarked crosswalks".

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Some other rules to keep in mind include a pedestrian's right-of-way when vehicles need to cross a sidewalk or use a driveway when pulling in or out of traffic, the prohibition of pedestrians from interstates or highway exits, and the reminder that pedestrians should always walk in the direction of oncoming traffic when sidewalks aren't present.

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