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At some point in life, everyone is a pedestrian. Regardless of how you get around, walk, jog, run, or sprint, if you travel on your own two feet then you can’t escape the rules and regulatations that come with being a pedestrian in Washington State. Pedestrian laws are put in place to protect people who walk about on Washington’s roads and highways, so it’s best to at least have a cursory knowledge of them.
Nothing to worry about, though. Washington State has some of the most progressive pedestrian laws in the entire United States. Below is the definitive guide to everything pedestrian that you should know before tying up your nikes and hitting the road in Evergreen State.
Basic Washington Pedestrian Laws
Let’s face it. The risk of pedestrian fatalities are a reality of the road. Every year over 4,000 pedestrians lose their lives in automobile-related accidents. The best way to prevent such tragic deaths is for more Washingtonians to learn and follow the common sense laws put in place to protect both pedestrians and motorists.
Here are the most important pedestrian laws everyone should learn in order to reduce the risk of being involved in a pedestrian accident:
Driver Due Care: Automobile drivers are required by Washington State law to exercise due care whenever they encounter a pedestrian in or around a road or highway.
Traffic Signals: There’s no two ways about it. Everyone must obey traffic signals. Traffic signals are the best way to prevent unecessary collions between pedestrians and automobiles. Ignore them at your own peril
Yield to Vehicles: Pedestrians who cross roads outside of intersections and designated crosswalks should yield to any and all vehicles in the road. In such situations automobiles have the right of way, so pedestrians should let them pass before attempting to cross.
Washington Crosswalks and You
Every Washington pedestrian and driver should be able to identify the two types of crosswalks found on our streets and highways. It’s important to know what each type looks like and what exact laws govern their use. The following is a brief explainer about both crosswalks:
Marked crosswalks are incredibly easy to identify. If you’ve ever seen wide white stripes stretching across the road or bright flashing yellow lights of street sign, you’ve likely seen a marked crosswalk in Washington. Pedestrians have the right of way when using marked crosswalks and automobiles should come to a complete stop well outside of the crosswalk’s boundaries. Only after the pedestrian has completely crossed the street can a waiting vehicle continue onward through the crosswalk. Failure to yield at a crosswalk faces stiff monetary penalties or even a suspension of their licences in some cases.
Despite pedestrians having the right-of-way in a marked crosswalk should not “suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or otherwise move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.” Pedestrians should stay alert when crossing any street, regardless of where they cross.
Unmarked crosswalks are far more difficult to identify. Hopefull this can help clear it up. Any intersection, whether marked or not, contains a crosswalk. Also, any section of the street that connects the lateral lines of opposite sidewalks across an intersection is effectively an unmarked crosswalk in Washington. Drivers are expected to follow the same regulations for unmarked crosswalks that are required for marked crosswalks.
Easily, one of the most confusing areas for both pedestrians and drivers is at an intersection. The following is a useful list of the most important intersection laws every Washingtonian should know:
- The most common examples of intersections are side streets, cross streets, interstate or highway entrances, and roundabouts
- Pedestrians should always wait for the walk signal before crossing any intersection
- Drivers are expected to yield to pedestrians who are already in the intersection
- Any automobile that crosses an intersection without a stop or yield sign should slow down and be ready to stop at a moment’s notice
- Drivers should always be alert for pedestrians using a roundabout
- Whether they be driver or pedestrian, the first person to arrive at an intersection with a stop sign, by law, has the right-of-way
Random Washington Pedestrian Laws
Washington has several laws governing pedestrians that all commuters should at least be aware of. Some of these laws may seem obvious, while others are definitely more off the wall. Read the list below to find out how many you know.
Funeral Processions: Contrary to popular belief, Washington pedestrians do not have to yield to funeral processions. There is no law requiring them to yield by any means. So if you’re on foot and in a rush, you have the right-of-way and don’t have to wait for that long line of cars.
Bicyclists and Pedestrians: In Washington, bicyclists are required to give pedestrians the right of way in most every situation. If a bicyclist comes upon a pedestrian on a sidewalk, inside of a crosswalk, or walking in a multi-use lane, they should not only provide the pedestrian with the right of way, they should also give them an audible signal as well, such as a verbal notification or the ring of a bicycle bell.
Spokane Skywalks: In the eastern city of Spokane it is illegal for anyone to sit, kneel, or lie down in the path of a pedestrian skywalk. Any deliquient kneeler caught by the police faces stiff penalties and fines. So if you find yourself with an untied shoelace on a pedestrian skywalk in Spokane, just keep walking until you find a legal place to tie it.
Ask anyone in Seattle to Olympia and they will tell you that Washington police do not like to see pedestrians jaywalking. Police officers who catch you jaywalking have no qualms writing you a ticket for crossing the street beyond a designated crosswalk. Do your bank account a favor and just cross at the intersection like everyone else.
Similarly, any driver who fails to yield to a pedestrian risks hundreds of dollars in fines. For example, in the city of Tacoma right-of-way violations can easily top $200. So when in doubt, just do everyone a favor and yield.
For additional information be sure to check out the Washington Driver Guide. And remember to be safe out there, Washington.
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