Legal Responsibility of Pedestrians and Drivers

pedestrian-crossingThe Oregon Vehicle Code is the primary resources for answers to what constitutes the statutory obligations of motor vehicle operators.  In conjunction with the statutory obligations of motor vehicle operators, it is important to juxtapose a discussion of the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of pedestrians and bicyclists.  In this section, we shall address: (1) the rules that Oregon drivers should observe toward pedestrians.  We shall also address: (2) the responsibility of pedestrians for road safety.  We shall conclude with our discussion with a series of safety tips.

The Responsibility of Pedestrians:

The first rule and primary rule for both drivers and pedestrians is that—under Oregon law—every intersection constitutes a pedestrian crosswalk, whether or not it is marked or controlled by a traffic device.  In addition to this first rule, there are corresponding responsibilities of pedestrians.  They include the following:

  1. Obeying the lights at a controlled intersection.  If the pedestrian is facing a red light, they do not have any right of way.  Similarly, if they are facing a steady yellow light, they may not enter the roadway.
  2. If a pedestrian is facing a sign that says “Don’t Walk” or “Wait,” they do not have the right of way.  This may become a little tricky if the pedestrian has entered the crosswalk when the light says “Walk,” then change to “Don’t Walk” or “Wait.”  In those cases, it is the pedestrian’s duty to move to point of safety, like a traffic island or footpath, and wait until they once again have the right of way.
  3. If the pedestrian suddenly leaves the curb or footpath when a vehicle is so close it constitutes an immediate hazard, the pedestrian does NOT have the right of way.
  4. If the pedestrian is crossing the road at any point besides a marked crosswalk—or at an intersection—then they do not have the right of way and must yield to any vehicle on the roadway.

The Responsibility of Drivers:

Oregon drivers should observe the following rules:

  1. When turning at a traffic signal, drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians, not only until the pedestrian has cleared the vehicles lane, but until they are at least six feet into the next lane.
  2. Drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians in any crosswalk, whether marked or unmarked.
  3. Drivers must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian using a white cane or a guide dog, and must wait until the blind pedestrian has completely crossed the road before proceeding.
  4. In all cases regarding right-of-way for either pedestrian or driver, if a member of the traffic control division is issuing instructions, they shall be followed and the right-of-way will only apply once the traffic control member has granted it.

Safety Tips:

Remember, under Oregon law there is a crosswalk at every intersection.  So, drivers should observe and employ the following safety tips:

  1. Do not pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk.  A stopped car may be a clue that a pedestrian is crossing.  When stopping for a crosswalk on a multi-lane highway, you should stop about 30-feet before the crosswalk so you don’t block the visibility to a driver in a second lane.
  2. When stopping at an intersection, do not block the crosswalk.  This forces pedestrians to go around your vehicle and places them in a dangerous situation.
  3. Watch pedestrians, especially children, when exiting a driveway or when backing out of parking spaces in parking lots.
  4. Pedestrians move at different speeds.  Be alert for children who may suddenly dart into the street.  Also, be patient with older adults who may take extra time to cross the street.
  5. Around taverns and bars, be alert for people with slowed reaction times or impaired judgment.
  6. Be alert for people or animals during low-light conditions, especially in areas where they are likely to cross the road, or you might not see them until it is too late to stop.