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Pedestrians Crossing the Road

The Department of Motor Vehicles reports that pedestrian fatalities in North Carolina have been on the rise for the past 10 years — up 54% since 2009 and up 13.4% from 2017 to 2018.

Since pedestrians are some of our most vulnerable road users, it’s important for drivers to always be on the lookout for pedestrians crossing the road. It is likewise important for pedestrians to be aware of the rules that keep them safe and their rights when injured by a negligent driver in North Carolina.

Keep reading to learn the right of way laws in six common pedestrian crossing situations and how these rules could affect your car accident personal injury claim.

6 Common Pedestrian Right of Way Situations, Explained

There are several laws that govern whether pedestrians or drivers have the right of way in various situations. In these next sections, we’ll break down each of these laws as described in a few different common pedestrian scenarios.

1. “Walk” Signals at Intersections

Some intersections have designated pedestrian walk signals giving pedestrians the right of way when the signal says “Walk.” All drivers must yield to the pedestrians when they have a “Walk” sign, even if the light is green for the driver.

For example, when a driver has a green light but is turning right through a crosswalk, the pedestrian and the driver both have “green lights” to go, but the driver must yield.

2. No “Walk” Signals at Intersections

Similar rules apply when an intersection does not have a designated pedestrian signal. The only difference is that the pedestrian must instead obey the streetlight signals for traffic heading in the same direction. If the pedestrian is walking north and the drivers headed north have a green light, then the pedestrians also have a green light.

3. Unmarked Crosswalks

If there is a sidewalk that ends at an intersection but continues on the other side, the area between the two is an implied crosswalk — even if there are no lines. Although unmarked, pedestrians still have right of way rights.

4. Mid-Block Crosswalks

Often seen in downtown areas, mid-block crosswalks occur at non-intersections and rarely have designated pedestrian walk signals. Right of way laws consider these crosswalks the same as intersection crosswalks, meaning drivers must yield for pedestrians standing at or crossing a designated crosswalk.

RELATED ARTICLE: North Carolina Is Among the Most Dangerous States for Pedestrians

5. Highways

Drivers have the right of way on a highway. Pedestrians should try to avoid having to cross highways as there is no designated crossing area. Vehicles traveling at highway speeds cannot safely stop for pedestrians. It is the pedestrian’s duty to pay attention when crossing a highway and only cross when it is safe to do so.

6. No Crosswalk

If there is not a crosswalk nearby, or if a pedestrian chooses to cross where there is not a crosswalk, the drivers have the right of way. Pedestrians must use their best judgment and only cross when safe. Pedestrians should not expect vehicles to stop in the middle of the road for them.

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North Carolina Negligence Laws: Why Right of Way Matters for an Injury Claim

North Carolina is one of only five states that follow the law of contributory negligence when determining a victim’s right to compensation.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Contributory negligence is the harshest of our country’s negligence laws. In states that follow contributory negligence, if a jury finds that an injured victim is partially to blame for the accident, they will be unable to recover compensation for their injuries — even if the driver was mostly at fault for the car crash.

What Pedestrian Crossing Actions Could Count as Contributory negligence?

    • Choosing to cross without a crosswalk rather than at a nearby crosswalk
    • Expecting vehicles on a highway to yield
    • Crossing when a pedestrian signal shows “Don’t Walk”
    • Darting into the road at a crosswalk as the signal changes to “Don’t Walk”
    • Crossing roads with earbuds in or while looking at a phone

RELATED ARTICLE: Why Contributory Negligence Matters for Your Personal Injury Case

What Does Contributory Negligence Mean for My Claim?

In North Carolina and other states with contributory negligence laws, the insurance company lawyer will be focused on proving that you did something that contributed to your crash. As we mentioned above, this could easily be related to pedestrian right of way laws. Following all pedestrian right of way laws is crucial to your personal safety and ensuring your ability to receive compensation if a negligent driver injures you.

If you believe the insurance company may have grounds to claim contributory negligence, it is essential that you speak with a qualified North Carolina pedestrian accident attorney as soon as possible.

Myers Law Firm: Standing Up for Victims of Pedestrian Crashes in North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, our attorneys work to get victims of North Carolina pedestrian crashes the compensation they deserve. We understand the harsh rulings under contributory negligence and fight to ensure that our clients are not wrongly denied their rightful compensation.

If you’ve been the victim of a pedestrian crash in North Carolina, please contact our attorneys today for your free consultation to discuss your rights and options. Please call 888-376-2889 or complete this brief online form to get started today.


Stradling, Richard. (2019, August 27). Pedestrian deaths keep rising in North Carolina — with no easy explanation. The News & Observer. Retrieved from https://www.newsobserver.com/news/traffic/ article234368767.html

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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