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Does a Pedestrian in a Crosswalk Have the Right of Way?

The drivers of motor vehicles on Maryland roadways have a duty to use ordinary care to prevent car accidents and injury to others, and those crossing Maryland streets owe a duty to use ordinary care for their own safety. Crosswalks have some associated special rules.

A crosswalk may be marked or “unmarked” [i.e. within the prolongation or connection of the lateral lines of the sidewalks].

Does a Pedestrian in a Crosswalk Have the Right of Way?

If there is no traffic signal, a driver of a motor vehicle must stop if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk on the half of the roadway where the vehicle is traveling, or, if they are approaching from an adjacent lane on the other half of the roadway. As attorney Eric T. Kirk will tell you, if a traffic control signal that does not contain special ‘walk’ or ‘don’t walk’ commands is operating, then, a driver faced with a circular solid green, must yield to anyone lawfully inside any crosswalk when going straight, right or left.

A pedestrian in this circumstance is “lawfully” in the crosswalk when they begin their crossing facing any green signal other than a turn arrow.

If a traffic control signal that does contain special ‘walk’ or ‘don’t walk’ commands is operating, then, a pedestrian facing a ‘walk’ signal is to be given the right of way by any driver. Pedestrians can assume that operators of vehicles will obey the rules. Obviously, that does not always happen. This isn’t necessarily by design, but often the product of mistake, oversight or neglect. In other words, negligence. The obligation to protect others runs both ways.

Of course, a pedestrian must always use due care for their own safety, and cannot blindly cross traffic, even with the right of way, without first checking to make sure it is safe.

Maryland is one of the few states adhering to the ancient concept of contributory negligence. In the context of pedestrian v. car accidents, the insurance company lawyer will frequently argue that the pedestrian caused, or contributed, to the accident, in even the most minor fashion, and should be barred from recovery.

It’s generally stated that the motorist has the right of way between crosswalks, but, that does not mean that a pedestrian crossing outside of a crosswalk is necessarily negligent as a matter of law. Harris V. Bowie, 249 Md. 465 [1968].

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