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Pedestrian’s rights and responsibilities

May 1, 2010

Spring is here and walking along our streets and highways increases. Pedestrians need to know their rights AND their obligations. Article 27, sections 1150 to 1157 of the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law defines pedestrians' rights and duties.

At an intersection where there is a pedestrian crossing signal, the walker must cross only when given the "Walk" signal. When the "Don't Walk" signal shows, a pedestrian cannot begin the cross, but may complete the cross if already started.

At a signalized intersection but without pedestrian lights, the person crossing may only cross when the street he/she is walking along receives the green signal. In this case, the vehicles on the street that the pedestrian is crossing have the red light. Also, any vehicle that is turning must yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

At an intersection without traffic lights, or if the traffic signal is inoperable, motorists are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. This means vehicles must slow or stop if need be to yield to the pedestrian. However, the pedestrian cannot just suddenly jump off the curb into traffic if a vehicle is close enough that it is impractical for the driver to yield.

The law also prohibits overtaking or passing a vehicle that has stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, including multiple lane streets or roads. A good example of this is along Main St. in Malone, much of which has four driving lanes. If an eastbound vehicle in the right lane is stopped for a pedestrian crossing Main St. at Webster St., it is illegal to pass that vehicle in the left lane.

Is it permissible for a pedestrian to cross a street in mid-block? The answer is yes, but here the pedestrian has basically no rights. He/she must wait for traffic in both directions to be clear, and must yield to all vehicles upon the roadway. This is not "J-walking," but rather referred to as "mid-block" crossing.

Other points relative to vehicles, pedestrians and crosswalks need clarification.

If at an intersection there are no crosswalks painted on the pavement, it is implied that crosswalks are there.

Drivers emerging from or entering an alleyway, building, private road or driveway must yield to pedestrians on any sidewalk extending across the driveway, alleyway, etc.

Drivers approaching a crosswalk or intersection must stop for blind pedestrians attempting to cross while using a white cane or a guide dog.

Pedestrians are not allowed to walk in a street or roadway where sidewalks are provided and they may be used safely.

No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless specifically authorized by traffic control devices (jaywalking). Such crossings are generally found in large cities. There are no such intersections in Franklin County.

When walking along a street or road without sidewalks, walk FACING traffic.

Although not required by law, pedestrians walking along a street or road in darkness should wear bright, reflective clothing and/or carry a flashlight.

Know the law and be a safe, courteous driver or pedestrian. For more traffic safety information, go to

Dave Werner can be reached at



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