Ask the Cop: Pedestrian vs. Vehicle Right-of-Way
Leesburg's Master Police Officer Christopher Tidmore elaborates on a question that was asked by a Patch reader last week.
Have you ever had a question for a police officer but never had the opportunity to ask one? Well, here is your chance.
"Ask the Cop" is a partnership with the Leesburg Police Department. Every week we will submit your questions to Master Police Officer Christopher Tidmore and the police department will answer them to the best of his ability. Below is one of the questions we received:
Q: I am frequently confused by who has right of way when a pedestrian crosses a street. If there is an explicit sign that says the pedestrian has right of way it's clear. However, in some cases there is a marked crosswalk with no explicit signage, and sometimes drivers stop and sometimes they don't.
It causes a problem when a driver stops and the drivers behind them don't expect it. It creates an even bigger problem when pedestrians assume they have right of way and the driver assumes that the car has right of way. What's the actual law? Don't get me started on cyclists flying across the road at the intersection of the W&OD trail and Dry Mill Road.
- Rob Jones
A: First, do not let the "explicit signage" confuse you. The signs are placed at locations in order to improve traffic safety by identifying crossing points for both drivers and pedestrians. However, even in the absence of such signage, pedestrians, once in the roadway, should generally be presumed to have the right-of-way. Drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who are within a marked crosswalk but they are also required to yield at locations where no crosswalk (or sign) is present. Conversely, a driver is not required to stop and yield to a pedestrian who is on a sidewalk waiting to cross the street. They may elect to do this if it is safe to do so, but they are not required to. There is a difference between courtesy and traffic law.
Pedestrians, for their part, are required to cross with due regard for safety and at appropriate locations. Simply being a pedestrian does not give a person the right to walk carelessly and without delay right across any roadway that they happen to come to.
If traffic conditions are such that a pedestrian has to wait for a safe time to cross, then they simply have to wait. Only after this responsibility has been met by the pedestrian and he or she enters the roadway, do they have the right-of-way. Stepping in front of a vehicle does not give a pedestrian the right-of-way.
A pedestrian may cross when the roadway is free of traffic in proximity to the area they are crossing. If a pedestrian’s actions are so careless or reckless so as to endanger themselves or approaching traffic, then they are deemed to have surrendered the right-of-way. Obviously, whether or not a pedestrian has the legal right-of-way is never justification for intentionally striking them.
If and when a pedestrian has safely and legally committed to crossing a roadway, drivers must yield to the pedestrian and wait for them to cross. Once in the roadway (again, with or without a crosswalk or signage), pedestrians have a duty to cross and clear the roadway in the most expeditious manner possible. They should cross directly, usually perpendicular to the curb, and without delay.
- Sergeant Steven M. McVay
Do you have a question for Officer Tidmore? Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a question below this article. The next column is scheduled to post two weeks from today. The deadline to submit your questions is Friday, June 8 by noon.
About this column: "Ask the Cop" is a partnership with the Leesburg Police Department. Every week we will submit your questions to Master Police Officer Christopher Tidmore and members of the police department will answer them.