In Washington State, crosswalks exist at every intersection even if not marked, and pedestrians and cyclists use them to cross the street in safety. So, who has the right-of-way? According to Washington law, it entirely depends on the circumstances.
Washington law addresses pedestrians and crosswalks and then says that cyclists should follow the laws for pedestrians when it comes to sidewalks. So when it comes to crosswalk right-of-way, a pedestrian and cyclist are the same.
First, the law says that pedestrians (and cyclists) must obey traffic signals and control devices the same as a motorist. This means that when there is a signal and or traffic light, then pedestrians and cyclist needs to wait for the walk sign or a green light in the direction they are crossing (RCW 46.61.050).
Stop for Pedestrians and Cyclists
However, the law also says that if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, a vehicle must stop and remain stopped to allow the pedestrian or cyclist to cross the crosswalk that crosses the lanes of traffic they are in. This doesn’t mean that it’s ok to drive on if the light is green and there is someone in the crosswalk.
At this point, the pedestrian/cyclist is breaking the law, but the driver would be too if he or she drove through the crosswalk (RCW 46.61.235).
Pedestrians Yield to vehicles in the Road
Just to make things a bit less clear, the law also says that pedestrian/cyclist must yield to any vehicle already in the road at the crosswalk (RCW 46.61.240). This is to prevent pedestrians and cyclists from entering the crosswalk when a car is approaching and would be unable to stop in time.
No Bolting into Traffic
Another law says that pedestrians/cyclists shouldn’t bolt into traffic when the driver would be unable to stop. This applies at crosswalks or at any point on a street (RCW 46.61.235).
At first blush, it seems these laws are in conflict. However, when you put them all together, you can see how it works. First, motor vehicles and pedestrians/cyclists have to obey traffic signals and crosswalk signs. So, if a cyclist rides out into a crosswalk and the light is red and/or the crosswalk signal says wait, then the cyclist is breaking the law.
However, an approaching motorist should yield to the cyclist already in the crosswalk, and any motorist already in the crosswalk has the right-of-way versus any pedestrian/cyclist approaching the crosswalk, and the law doesn’t say that if the motorist has the green light, it’s ok just to plow through the crosswalk anyway.
Many intersections have no signals or marked crosswalks, so in these the law is clear: basically whoever is already in the road or in the crosswalk has the right-of-way, and remember, there is a legal crosswalk at these intersections even if not marked.
Who’s at Fault in an Accident in a Crosswalk?
Just when things might be making sense, when it comes to who is at fault in an accident, the law doesn’t say that a person is at fault if they weren’t obeying the traffic laws. In fact, like all states, Washington law says that negligence is the controlling factor in a personal injury case, and a violation of a traffic law doesn’t automatically confer negligence.
Bottom line, a jury will look at the actions of the injured victim and the alleged at-fault driver and see if they were negligent. Negligence is determined by comparing the actions of each person involved to see if a reasonable and prudent person would have done the same thing. If not, then that person is negligent.
Like most states, Washington has comparative negligence which assigns fault or negligence to each person and allocates liability accordingly. If the injured victim is 30 percent negligent, then he or she will only get 70 percent of their losses covered.
What to do if you are Injured in a Crosswalk
If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, you should at least talk to an attorney who can advise you of your rights and can inform you of the insurance coverage available to you.Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.