Pedestrian traffic in New York has steadily been increasing in the last several years. This is great for exercise and helping the environment, but it has also led to an uptick in pedestrian-related car accidents.
Pedestrians and drivers need to be aware of state laws to prevent further accidents, especially since pedestrians are so at risk in a collision. Find out what rights New York pedestrians are entitled to and how working with a lawyer from Catalano Law can help if you are injured in a pedestrian-car accident.
Common Pedestrian Situations
Cases involving injured pedestrians often arise because neither the pedestrian nor the driver is sure who has the right of way. To understand pedestrian rights, it is helpful to look at common scenarios that cause pedestrians to be injured by motor vehicles. The following are frequent occurrences where pedestrians sustain injuries and the New York pedestrian’s rights which apply in each scenario.
1. Crossing the Road
The simple act of crossing the road leads to many pedestrian accidents. In most situations, pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the road. To be more specific, pedestrians have the right of way when:
- Crossing in a designated crosswalk
- Obeying the “Walk” signal at an intersection
- Crossing at an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection
The area between the curbs at an intersection is defined as a crosswalk even if it is not marked. This allows pedestrians the right of way at all intersections. Also, if there is no pedestrian traffic signal at an intersection, you should wait to cross until the vehicles traveling in the same direction as you are walking have a green light, and cross in front of the stopped traffic.
There are some situations where pedestrians must yield to motor vehicles. These include when a traffic signal indicates the “Don’t Walk” symbol and when crossing the road outside of a crosswalk, otherwise known as jaywalking. Additionally, if a pedestrian runs into the street in a manner that doesn’t give a driver reasonable time to stop, they may be held liable for any injuries they incur. But that doesn’t mean a driver can’t be held liable or at least partially liable if a pedestrian was jaywalking but the driver had reasonable time to stop and should have seen the pedestrian.
2. Using Sidewalks
Pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks. Pedestrians are required to use sidewalks if they are available and in a safe condition. In situations where a car is backing out of a driveway or alley that crosses a sidewalk, the vehicle is required to give the pedestrian the right of way in New York.
3. Road Shoulders
If a pedestrian must walk on the roadway because there is no sidewalk or foot-traffic walkway or because the sidewalk is damaged, the pedestrian should walk on the far left-hand shoulder of the roadway facing traffic. This creates better visibility for both the pedestrian and oncoming traffic. Drivers must exercise due care with pedestrians, which entails being aware of pedestrians on the left side of the road.
4. Highways or Interstates
Pedestrians are not allowed on highways or interstates in New York. This includes on and off-ramps. If you venture onto a highway or interstate as a pedestrian, you are breaking the law and endangering yourself and others.
Roundabouts can be confusing. However, there are protocols for pedestrians who need to cross the road at these structures. Those on foot should not cross to the center island of a roundabout. Instead, pedestrians should focus on the traffic coming from one direction and between the triangle-shaped splitter islands that go around the outside of a roundabout. Stay on the designated crosswalks and wait for a gap in traffic before crossing.
6. Using Phones or Earbuds
Pedestrians should use caution when wearing earbuds or using a phone. Drivers and cyclists are prohibited from wearing earbuds in both ears. Although no explicit regulation exists in New York for pedestrians, it is common sense to be aware of your surroundings while walking on or near the roadways. Always keep one earbud out near traffic, and don’t get distracted on your phone while crossing the street.
What to Do Immediately After a Pedestrian Accident
The aftermath of an accident involving a pedestrian and a car can be especially chaotic and stressful. Keeping a clear head and following these steps can help ensure your safety, as well as support any insurance claims and legal actions you may pursue.
1. Ensure Safety and Call 911
First and foremost, ensure the safety of all parties involved. Move to a safe location if possible, then immediately call 911. Even if any injuries seem minor, it’s crucial to report the accident and get emergency services to evaluate the situation.
2. Document the Scene
If it’s safe and you’re able to, take photos and videos of the accident scene, including the vehicle, the pedestrian area, and any relevant road signs or signals. Capture different angles to provide a comprehensive view of the incident.
3. Collect Information
Exchange contact and insurance information with the driver involved. If there are any witnesses, get their contact details as well.
4. Seek Medical Attention
Even if there are no obvious injuries, it’s important for both the pedestrian and the driver to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some injuries, especially those related to impact or trauma, may not be immediately apparent.
5. Report the Incident to Your Insurance Company
Notify your insurance company about the accident. Be factual about the details, but avoid admitting fault or giving overly detailed statements unless you’ve spoken with a lawyer.
6. Contact a Lawyer
Consider consulting with an auto accident lawyer, especially if there are injuries involved. A lawyer can provide guidance on the legal steps to take and help protect your rights, whether you’re the pedestrian or the driver.
Contact Catalano Law for a Free Consultation
If you are involved in an accident with a vehicle while walking in New York, it is a good idea to reach out to a New York car accident attorney who can assess your case and determine if you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. We’ve handled all kinds of pedestrian accidents and can help you determine who had the right of way, who is at fault, whether you are eligible for compensation, and how much your injury is worth. With 50 years of combined experience, our New York attorneys are knowledgeable in pedestrian rights and will work to protect you during the settlement process. Contact Catalano Law for a confidential, free consultation today.
Originally published July 26, 2021. Updated January 12, 2024.