For obvious reasons, vehicle and traffic laws and their enforcement will always need to carefully address and monitor the interaction between pedestrians and motorists. Pedestrian safety is a very important issue and many drivers are far too aggressive around people just trying to cross from one side of the road to the other.
On the other hand, the laws protecting pedestrians are often enforced too aggressively as well and we see many tickets (and often have dashcam videos to prove it) that are issued to drivers who did drive appropriately when pedestrians may have been present but were clearly out of danger. These pedestrian laws don’t talk in specific terms regarding what “yielding” may be. Much is left up to the discretion of the enforcement officers.
These are very popular summonses, particularly in NYC due to how often pedestrians and vehicles interact at various intersections. There are a few sections of law one might be charged with if an officer decides you have committed a violation with respect to a pedestrian.
Under the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL), §1151 Failure to yield to a pedestrian, is the most commonly cited section of law pertaining to motorist-pedestrian interaction. In NYC, you may also be cited with §4-04(b) of the NYC Traffic Rules and Regulations or §19–190 of the NYC Administrative Code. This is a newer regulation that can be used for a typical fail to yield situation but was enacted moreso to give officers an option to charge a motorist with a misdemeanor if a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle.
The laws contain the same basic points:
- When there are no traffic signals in place, cars must still yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
- Pedestrians can’t suddenly jump or run out from the sidewalk into the crosswalk in a manner which doesn’t give the driver a chance to yield.
- If you are approaching an intersection and see another car stopped at a crosswalk in the process of yielding to a pedestrian, do not pass this vehicle.
Other Important things to note here:
- These sections of law address situations where traffic control signals are not in place. When they are in place, there will likely be walk/don’t walk pedestrian signals that change in conjunction with the vehicular traffic control signals. Even when you are facing a green signal, you must yield to pedestrians who are likely facing a “walk” signal at the same time. NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) §1112 sets forth that pedestrians facing a “walk” signal must be given the right of way by other traffic.
- These sections of law address situations where the pedestrian is walking within a marked crosswalk. Pedestrians also have the right of way within “unmarked crosswalks” at intersections according to VTL §1152. It’s crossing in the middle of a block, not at an intersection or within a crosswalk, where pedestrians need to yield to vehicles.
- Generally speaking, these tickets are a judgment call by the officer. How fast is the vehicle going, how quickly is the pedestrian moving, how big is the intersection, what is the distance between pedestrian and vehicle, was there some eye contact or physical gesture exchanged between motorist and pedestrian…all of these arguably come into play. That said, you (a) hopefully don’t want to hit anyone and (b) don’t know how aggressively an officer may enforce this, so just be extremely cautious and always err on the side of deferring to pedestrians.
- Most violations in NY involving moving vehicles and drivers who fail to yield the right of way are three (3) points on your NY drivers license. The exception would be those written under the NYC Administrative Code but these are a very very small percentage of cases.
Basically, pedestrians will always have the right of way at an intersection, marked crosswalk or not, except when facing do not walk signals. Elsewhere on the road, vehicles have the right of way.
Regardless of the law, drivers, pedestrians, officers, traffic attorneys and traffic court judges should all be on the same page with this–trying to minimize cars hitting people.
In the state of New York, a pedestrian is a person moving from place to place on their feet. A pedestrian may be walking, running or jogging on the sidewalk or roadway. According to state law, pedestrians:
Are subject to traffic regulations. This means that pedestrians must follow all traffic control devices that apply to them just as if they were driving a car.
Have the right of way in crosswalks. If a traffic control signal is not in place at a marked crosswalk, the driver of a vehicle is expected to yield the right of way to a pedestrian. If the pedestrian is crossing the roadway in a provided pedestrian tunnel or overpass, the pedestrian must yield the right of way to all vehicles.
Pedestrians, even at crosswalks, are not permitted to leave the curb in such a quick manner that a vehicle is unable to stop. A pedestrian does have the right away when crossing over a sidewalk in front of a building entrance, driveway, building entrance or alleyway.
Crossing at areas other than crosswalks is permitted, however a pedestrian must yield the right of way to vehicles. This is assuming that no crosswalk is nearby. Pedestrians are also not permitted to cross a road on the diagonal. Any person walking or jogging is also prohibited from using the roadway where sidewalks are provided. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the roadway, facing traffic. Pedestrians should move as far to the shoulder as they are able when a vehicle approaches.
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Failure to Yield to a Pedestrian FAQs
Why are so many tickets issued in NYC for failing to yield to a pedestrian?
Do drivers have to yield to pedestrians at all times in NY?
Should I fight my ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian?
The pedestrian jumped out suddenly into the road. Do I have a case?
What happens if I ignore my failure to yield to a pedestrian traffic ticket?
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