Assess the Risk of the Crossing
Who has the right of way here? -- Pedestrian / white cane laws
It is important to know the laws in your state, such as
Many people (including some police!) have misconceptions about these laws, and don't realize that:
- Who has the right of way in each situation?
- What must pedestrians do to gain the right of way?
- What effect does a white cane or dog guide have on a pedestrian's right of way (does it provide any rights that other pedestrians don't have)?
So make sure that you and your students understand the law in your state, and realize that what the law says and what drivers actually do are often completely different!
- in most states, there are "unmarked" crosswalks (where pedestrians have the right of way) at any corner which has a sidewalk leading up to the street (some states require sidewalks leading up to both sides of the street, and some states have unmarked crosswalks between every corner, regardless of whether there is a sidewalk).
- even at crosswalks, pedestrians usually have to do something to gain the right of way, such as putting a foot into the crosswalk, and not starting to cross when drivers are too close to be able to stop.
- in most states, unless there is a traffic signal at the nearest intersection in both directions, pedestrians can legally cross midblock, although they don't have the right of way.
That is, they can cross legally but if vehicles are approaching that would have to slow down for them, the pedestrians are required to wait and yield to the vehicles.
- many states do not provide any more rights to pedestrians with white canes than they do for all pedestrians.
To find out the definition of "crosswalk" and what pedestrians need to do to assert their right to cross there in your state, you can refer to the spreadsheet
compiled by Ray Thomas, Esq. and his associates.
For example, using the chart to find the pedestrian laws for Maryland,
For more ideas and information about pedestrian and white-cane laws, you can go to Rules of the Road.
The 6th column in the chart ("UVC 11-502(b) Pedestrians' right of way in crosswalks [Pedestrian can't suddenly leave curb]") shows that in all but 6 states, pedestrians are not allowed to "walk into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is difficult for the operator of the vehicle to yield" or that "is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard."
- the second-to-last column in the chart ("crosswalk definition") shows that in Maryland, there has to be a perpendicular sidewalk leading up to only one side of the street in order to be considered an unmarked crosswalk,
second column in the chart ("UVC 11-502(a) Pedestrians' right of way in crosswalks") shows that Maryland requires pedestrians to have at least one foot in the street in order to assert their right of way for vehicles in the nearest lanes (drivers "shall come to a stop [at crosswalks where a pedestrian is] "ON THE HALF OF THE ROADWAY on which the vehicle is traveling"), and to assert their right of way with vehicles in the second half of the street they have to be walking in the crosswalk ("approaching from an adjacent lane on the other half of the roadway").