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Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?

Understanding When Pedestrians Do NOT Have the Right of Way

South Carolina is notorious for pedestrian deaths, as it continuously ranks among the highest in the nation for pedestrian fatalities. While the state’s poorly-designed roadways are to blame to some extent, we believe that pedestrians and drivers can do their part to minimize the number of fatalities in South Carolina. One way to do this is to understand pedestrian right of way laws.

When you got your driver’s license, you were probably under the impression that pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way. After all, they are more vulnerable to getting hurt or killed in an accident compared to drivers. You may have experienced instances where pedestrians cross intersections and roadways that they aren’t supposed to, also known as “jaywalking,” and maybe even did so yourself.

The bottom line, however, is that pedestrians do not always have the right of way, and our Columbia personal injury attorney is here to explain more.

South Carolina statutes define “right of way” as the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to legally proceed to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching with respect to direction, speed, and proximity, and with awareness to the danger of collisions that could occur unless one grants precedence, or priority, to the other. Essentially, pedestrians and drivers must exercise their good judgment on the road by granting the right of way when a situation calls for it.

With this in mind, let’s discuss pedestrians’ right of way in crosswalks and places other than crosswalks. Under section 56-5-3130, the following rules apply:

  • When traffic-control signals are not installed or not working, a driver must yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping to yield to a pedestrian crossing a crosswalk located on the side of the road in which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the other side of the road that they are in danger
  • Pedestrians must not suddenly leave or curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a dangerously close vehicle
  • When a driver is stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk in an intersection to allow a pedestrian to cross the road, the driver of a rear-approaching vehicle cannot overtake and pass the stopped vehicle
  • Pedestrians must use the right half of crosswalks when possible
  • Pedestrians who cross a roadway other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection must yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway
  • Pedestrians crossing a roadway where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing is provided must yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway
  • Pedestrians must not cross at any place between adjacent intersections with traffic-control signals unless they’re within a marked crosswalk
  • Pedestrians must not cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by a traffic-control device and when authorized to do so

What about pedestrians on highways? You’ve probably driven on highways that provide pedestrian sidewalks, but pedestrians are at a higher risk due to the speeds of passing cars and lack of crosswalks. Thus, pedestrians must comply with the following rules:

  • Pedestrians must not walk along and upon an adjacent roadway when a sidewalk is available and its use is practical
  • If a sidewalk is not available on a highway, pedestrians must walk on a shoulder as far away as possible from the edge of the roadway
  • If a sidewalk nor shoulder is available, pedestrians must walk to an outside edge of the roadway and if they’re on a two-way roadway, they must only walk on the left side of the road
  • Under any other circumstances, pedestrians on a roadway must yield the right of way to vehicles on such roadway

Pedestrians can get criminal charges if they walk on a freeway. If convicted of this misdemeanor offense, you could get sentenced to 30 days in jail and be fined up to $100. Keep in mind that drivers on highways go the fastest speeds of any other roadway, posing a serious threat to pedestrians. That’s why no pedestrians are allowed on freeways unless the following circumstances apply:

  • A law enforcement officer says so
  • They are performing public works or official duties as a result of an emergency or breakdown of a vehicle
  • They are obtaining assistance

Why Is This Important?

If you failed to give a pedestrian the right of way or jaywalked across a busy road thinking that your actions wouldn’t be a “big deal,” we urge you to think again. Remember, South Carolina ranks among the highest in the nation for pedestrian deaths, which is why law enforcement officers are on the lookout for pedestrians and drivers who violate these laws. They intend to help prevent injuries and deaths.

If you suffered an injury through no fault of your own, please reach out to our South Carolina personal injury lawyer online or at (803) 938-4952!