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Are Pedestrian Rights Different Outside of Crosswalks?

By Butler Prather LLP on January 18, 2019

Many pedestrians and drivers alike are unaware of pedestrian rights inside and outside of crosswalks. Georgia is a state known for its unique crosswalk laws – since 1995, Georgia drivers must stop and remain stopped while a pedestrian is in a crosswalk. Other states simply require that drivers yield to a pedestrian, but this Georgia law saves pedestrian lives, helps reduce accidents with pedestrians and catches drivers off guard. If a pedestrian is crossing outside of a crosswalk, the law becomes more complicated.

Pedestrian Rights Inside Crosswalks

Under Georgia law, drivers of motor vehicles must allow a pedestrian to complete crossing a street when:

  • The pedestrian is crossing the area of the street where the car is approaching
  • The pedestrian is within one lane of the area of the street where the car is approaching

What does Georgia Consider a Crosswalk?

The state defines “crosswalk” as:

  • A part of the road that is connected by “lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway”
  • Any part of a road at an intersection or anywhere with markings that indicate that the section of road is meant for pedestrian crosswalk

To stay safe, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia recommends that vehicles completely stop and remain stopped when they see a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Drivers should not simply yield to a pedestrian and they cannot drive around, cut off, or squeeze by a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Drivers behind a car waiting for a pedestrian to cross cannot pass the stopped vehicle.

However, these laws do not mean that a pedestrian is in complete control of the crosswalk. A pedestrian cannot suddenly leave a curb and walk into the path of an oncoming car that does not have time to yield. If traffic-control signals are available, pedestrians must adhere to them and not enter the crosswalk during a “Don’t Walk” signal.

If a pedestrian is already in the crosswalk when the “Don’t Walk” signal appears, he or she should continue to the curb or stay on a safety island. Drivers should not enter a crosswalk if a pedestrian is crossing during a “Don’t Walk” signal, remaining stopped until the person finishes crossing.

Pedestrian Rights Outside Crosswalks

Crosswalk laws differ when a pedestrian crosses the street in areas that are not crosswalks, as defined by Georgia law. Vehicles on the roadway have the right-of-way in these situations, unless the pedestrian already entered the road under safe conditions. In addition, pedestrians cannot cross outside of the crosswalk in places where there is a pedestrian crosswalk. If a pedestrian crossing or tunnel is available and the pedestrian chooses not to use it, he or she will have to yield to oncoming vehicles.

The term “jaywalking” does not appear in Georgia pedestrian law. Crossing the street in places other than a crosswalk is legal in most Georgian municipalities, as long as the pedestrian follows the above regulations and yields to the right of way. However, diagonal crossing is illegal unless pedestrian-control devices allow it.

Determining Liability After a Pedestrian-Vehicle Collision

When a vehicle and a pedestrian collide, the pedestrian can choose to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver. The pedestrian has two years from the date of the accident to file this lawsuit. During the case, he or she can seek economic and non-economic damages for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Disability
  • Property damage

The jury will determine who is liable for the accident using a comparative fault rule. The comparative fault rule will decrease the pedestrian’s settlement based on his or her share of the fault. The court will examine the facts of the case and determine who was at fault for the accident.

For example, say that the jury awards a pedestrian a $100,000 settlement. The jury also finds that the pedestrian entered into the street in an area that had a marked crosswalk and an oncoming car hit him or her. The jury can find the pedestrian liable for 20% of the accident, reducing the settlement to $80,000.

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