Written by attorney Brian C. Pascale

New York Laws for Pedestrians

Both drivers and pedestrians have a duty at all times to keep a lookout for one another. While a driver who is in violation of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law (“VTL") can be held negligent, there may be mitigating factors which may become problematic when it comes time to settle the case.

When I was first admitted one of my early cases was a college student struck by a car when he was returning to his dorm from a local college bar. After crossing the street, making it to the roadway’s shoulder, he was struck by a speeding vehicle. Aside from our client’s intoxication, we had other hurdles to overcome. One was the availability of a crosswalk. The area where he crossed was dimly lit, and there were no traffic lights or crosswalks. One block to the west however there was a traffic light and a crosswalk (the campus was east of the bar). His failure to use the available crosswalk made our client partially negligent, and was one (of several) cause, we chose to settle the action over proceeding to trial where a jury could have penalized our client with a defense verdict. It should be noted that this case was in one of the most conservative counties in the country.

Remember, always cross roadways at a crosswalk when they are available. At crosswalks with pedestrian signals, push the button on the signal pole and wait for the WALK signal. Intersections without push buttons automatically give WALK signals.

Below are several pertinent sections of New York’s VTL:

VTL § 1112 – Pedestrian-control signal indications: Whenever pedestrians are controlled by pedestrian-control signals exhibiting the words “WALK" or “DON'T WALK", or exhibiting symbols of a walking person or upraised hand, such signals shall indicate and apply to pedestrians as follows: (a) Steady WALK or walking person. Pedestrians may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and have the right of way by other traffic. (b) Flashing or (c) Steady DON'T WALK or upraised hand. Pedestrians can’t start to cross the roadway, but any who have partially completed their crossing on the WALK or walking person signal shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety island while the flashing DON'T WALK or upraised hand signal is showing.

VTL § 1151 – Pedestrians' right of way in crosswalks: (a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles. (b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield. (c) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.

VTL § 1152 – Crossing at other than crosswalks: (a) Pedestrians crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway. (b) Pedestrians crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway. (c) Pedestrians shall NOT cross a roadway intersection diagonally, unless authorized by official traffic-control devices.

VTL § 1156. Pedestrians on roadways:(a) Where sidewalks are provided and they may be used with safety it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway. (b) Where sidewalks are not provided any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the left side of the roadway, or its shoulder, facing traffic. Upon the approach of any vehicle from the opposite direction, such pedestrian shall move as far to the left as is practicable.

Additional resources provided by the author

This guide is for information purposes and may not contain every law applicable to pedestrians in New York. If you have a question regarding any type of law it is important that you always speak with a qualified attorney who specializes in that area of law. If you do not know one, you can quickly find an attorney in your local area on this website.

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