As a pedestrian, at intersections you generally will have the right-of-way. In fact, the rules are fairly simple.
When there’s pedestrian crossing lights or traffic lights, here’s how they work:
If the light changes before you finish crossing, you still have the right to get across the street.
At all other intersections, pedestrians will normally have the right-of-way over vehicles even if the crossing is not marked. This includes uncontrolled intersections and controlled intersections with stop and yield signs.
Pedestrians also have the right-of-way at marked mid-street crossings. If traffic lights are part of the mid-street crosswalk, these lights must be obeyed.
Even though pedestrians have the right-of-way, you still need to exercise caution. This was well-illustrated in a 2005 study published by the United States Department of Transportation. The Department studied 1000 unmarked and 1000 marked pedestrian crossings from various locations across the United States. Every marked and unmarked crossing studied did not have traffic signals or stop signs.
Once variables such as the volume of vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic were factored into their findings, some interesting characteristics were revealed about pedestrian safety at marked and unmarked crossings. Here are a few highlights:
The study concluded that because marked and unmarked pedestrian crossings had roughly the same number of pedestrian-vehicle collisions, simply painting in crosswalk lines or marking them with signage would have little or no impact on pedestrian safety. City planners had to do more.
The study suggested that to improve pedestrian safety, crosswalks needed to be built with such improvements as:
The presence of a marked crosswalk, alone, may have given pedestrians the illusion of being safer, but in practice they did little to improve pedestrian safety.
If anything, this study reinforced the importance of being vigilant when crossing the street. Even when you have the right of way, don’t take any chances. Before crossing, look left, right, and left again. And make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you.