Posted On November 22, 2022

When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

In Indiana, state laws determine when pedestrians have the right of way. Generally, pedestrians only have the right of way when they are already in the roadway and are crossing in a marked crosswalk or when they are crossing at a designated intersection.

When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way In Indiana?

Indiana pedestrian laws address a variety of right-of-way issues including crosswalks, intersections, traffic control devices, traffic signals, shoulders, sidewalks, and safety zones. According to the Indiana University Police Department, Indiana, pedestrian laws give pedestrians the right of way only when they are already in the street and crossing in a marked crosswalk or at a designated intersection. If crossing the street in any other situation, do pedestrians have the right of way? The answer is no. Pedestrians must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. Pedestrians are prohibited from stepping into any street, road, or intersection without a clear, safe path to get completely across to the other side without encountering oncoming traffic.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pedestrian injuries and fatalities are rising every year. During the last decade, pedestrian fatalities increased from 4,302 in 2010 to an estimated 6,607 in 2020, representing about 17% of all traffic deaths across the country. In Indiana alone, there were more than 1,500 pedestrian/motorist collisions in 2019 that accounted for the death of 75 pedestrians. In 2020, pedestrian deaths rose to 123, and in 2021 rose again to 136.

According to NHTSA reports, pedestrian fatalities are increasing faster than all other types of traffic fatalities in the U.S. As a pedestrian in Indiana, it is important to know about specific Indiana pedestrian laws that impact your safety. Obeying traffic signals and following pedestrian laws that address when do pedestrians have the right of way and can save your life.

Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrian accidents occur frequently in busy cosmopolitan cities, small towns, and rural areas, but the causes of these accidents often have a lot to do with the immediate surroundings, the number of cars on the road, and the time of day. Common causes for motorist/pedestrian accidents include:

  • Speeding and reckless driving behaviors
  • Ignoring or disobeying traffic signals
  • Drunk or impaired drivers and/or pedestrians
  • Distracted drivers and/or pedestrians
  • Failure to understand the right of way
  • Pedestrians who are not visible at night or in bad weather

Reckless and Impaired Behaviors

Speeding, reckless driving, and impaired driving are the leading causes of pedestrian accidents that result in serious injuries and fatalities. Driving under the influence of alcohol and or drugs has a huge impact on a driver’s ability to control the vehicle, as well as the driver’s cognitive functions used to make decisions, judge distance, and react quickly. Drunk or impaired drivers may not notice a pedestrian in the crosswalk or intersection because they’re distracted, sleepy, or dozing off. If they do see the pedestrian, it is often too late to stop.

While speeding, reckless, or impaired drivers are responsible for most pedestrian fatalities, drunk or impaired pedestrians can also pose significant injury risks. Pedestrians under the influence or engaged on their cell phones often ignore traffic signals, cross the street in unmarked crosswalks, or step into busy streets by accident. When crossing the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection, pedestrians must exercise caution, even though the right of way for pedestrians is understood.

Poor Visibility at Night

Many pedestrian injuries occur at night or in poor visibility situations. Pedestrians who are out after dark or in inclement weather conditions should always wear some type of reflective clothing that is visible to drivers. Reflecting clothing is visible even in the darkest areas because a driver’s headlights will reflect off of the clothing and draw attention to the pedestrian. When pedestrians are near Indiana’s most dangerous roads, they should always exercise extreme caution at night and in bad weather conditions. Pedestrians should use extreme caution before attempting to cross the street or road and keep an adequate distance from all moving vehicles, especially in heavy traffic.

The Responsibilities of Drivers

To prevent motorists/pedestrian accidents and injuries, drivers must obey all Indiana driving laws and traffic signals while behind the wheel. Indiana drivers are required to obey the following laws:

  • Drive at the designated speed limit
  • Come to a complete stop at red lights and stop signs
  • Yield at crosswalks when indicated
  • Do not overtake a crosswalk when turning
  • Do not pass a vehicle that is stopped for a pedestrian
  • Do not drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs

When a vehicle accident occurs in Indiana, the driver may be fully responsible for injuries of other drivers and pedestrians involved. Indiana is a tort liability state and follows at-fault rules for individuals involved in car accidents. As such, the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays for other drivers’ or pedestrians’ injuries and/or property damages. Additionally, medical payments insurance coverage (MedPay) can help pay for medical expenses of the covered driver and his or her passengers, regardless of who is at fault.

All Indiana drivers are required to have liability insurance. The minimum amount of car insurance liability coverage includes $25,000 for bodily injury liability per person; $50,000 for bodily injury liability per accident; and $25,000 for property damage liability per accident. Liability insurance pays for medical bills, damages, and injuries caused to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

In addition to minimum liability insurance, all Indiana drivers must have uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage added to their policy, unless the coverage is rejected in writing pursuant to Indiana law. Uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage provides a driver with additional coverage if the party who caused the accident does not have insurance or is an under-insured motorist.

While it is most common for one driver to cause a car accident, there may be instances where other drivers are responsible and must share in the fault. In Indiana, comparative fault law allows recovery for damages as long as the driver is found to be 50% or less at fault. If the driver is more than 50% at fault, he or she will be barred from recovering compensation for the car accident.

The Responsibilities of Pedestrians

To prevent motorist and pedestrian accidents and injuries, pedestrians must also obey all Indiana pedestrian laws that address when do pedestrians have the right of way? Like Indiana drivers, Indiana pedestrians are also required to obey the following laws:

  • Traffic Control Signals – Pedestrians must obey all traffic signals related to designated crosswalks and intersections.
  • Yield to Traffic – Pedestrians must yield to oncoming traffic unless crossing the street in a designated crosswalk or at a designated intersection.
  • Use of Sidewalks – If sidewalks are available, a pedestrian must use the sidewalk. If a sidewalk is not available, a pedestrian may use the shoulder or bike lane.
  • Jaywalking – Crossing a street at an unmarked crosswalk is illegal in Indiana. What happens if you hit a pedestrian jaywalking? Motorists are not expected to slow down or stop for a person in an unmarked crosswalk or undesignated area of the road. Anyone who breaks the law by crossing a street illegally is considered a jaywalker. In Indiana, jaywalkers can be charged with a Class C infraction, and they can face fines up to $500.
  • Stopped Vehicles – If a vehicle is stopped, a pedestrian is not guaranteed the pedestrian’s right of way. Pedestrians are required to wait until they are given the proper signal to proceed safely.

When a pedestrian is struck by a moving vehicle, the consequences can be serious short-term and long-term injuries physical and mental injuries. Common injuries that pedestrians sustain from pedestrian-vehicle collisions include broken bones, neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain damage, and amputated limbs. Mental injuries can include depression, anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pedestrians can be held responsible for injuries caused by vehicle injuries, if the pedestrian is found to be the at-fault party. Additionally, drivers and pedestrians can share fault. Indiana is a comparative negligence state, which means that drivers and pedestrians can share the blame, but that does not mean that both parties cannot receive compensation for their injuries.

If both parties are partially at fault, each party shares a percentage of damages based on the negligence of each party. For example, if the pedestrian illegally crossed the street and the driver was texting, both parties can be blamed for negligent actions. The pedestrian may receive 30% of the blame for crossing the street illegally, while the driver may receive 70% of the blame for texting and distracted driving.

If you suffer pedestrian injuries caused by a motor vehicle accident, it is important to seek medical attention right away and talk to an Indiana injury attorney about your injuries. Car accident cases that involve pedestrian injuries can be complicated without an attorney who knows state laws related to both drivers and pedestrians, including when do pedestrians have the right of way.