New York Crosswalk Laws

On February 12, 2015, a garbage truck struck and killed a four year old in a crosswalk.  This tragic accident on Central Avenue in Albany should be a reminder to everyone to pay attention to pedestrians and crosswalks, and for the police and upstate New York municipalities to crack down on crosswalk violations. 

Having worked in downtown Albany for the past several years, I am consistently astonished by drivers' failure to obey the enormous yellow pedestrian crossing signs. If there is no signal, the pedestrian in a crosswalk ALWAYS has the right of way, and cars MUST yield to allow them to cross. It's that simple. Notwithstanding the law, on a daily basis I see CDTA buses, Albany Police, New York State-registered vehicles, municipal vehicles, and of course everyday drivers ignoring pedestrians in well-marked crosswalks and driving right along. 

I grew up in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. In the late 1990's, there was an enormous crackdown on crosswalks, and it worked. Towns like Lenox, Great Barrington, and Stockbridge became significantly more pedestrian-friendly, and drivers quickly learned to take crosswalks seriously. This has stuck with me, even though I'm a certified New Yorker, and I'm still astonished by local drivers' failure to obey the law - and seriously, when was the last time you saw someone in Upstate New York get pulled over for not yielding to a pedestrian?! 

Like Massachusetts, New York has strict crosswalk laws. In many parts of the Capital District, unfortunately, there appears to be no enforcement. Today (2/13/15), for example, I walked four blocks to grab lunch, using several crosswalks. While trying to cross Pearl Street at a well marked crosswalk, at least fourteen drivers ignored the massive yellow signs before I could cross. No one yielded, or even acknowledged me or the person trying to cross from the other side. 

Drivers that fail to yield the right of way face three points on their licenses, a hefty fine, and a state-mandated surcharge. All said and done, around $300 + 3 points.  Here are the relevant New York Vehicle and Traffic laws (VTL) regarding pedestrians and crosswalks:

  • VTL § 1150. Pedestrians subject to traffic regulations
    • Pedestrians shall be subject to traffic-control signals as provided in section eleven hundred eleven of this title, but at all other places pedestrians shall be accorded the privileges and shall be subject to the restrictions stated in this article.
  • VTL § 1151. Pedestrians' right of way in crosswalks
    • (a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles.
      (b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.
      (c) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
  • VTL § 1151-a. Pedestrians' right of way on sidewalks
    • The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alleyway, building, private road or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across such alleyway, building entrance, road or driveway.
  • VTL § 1152. Crossing at other than crosswalks
    • (a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
      (b) Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
      (c) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic-control devices; and, when authorized to cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only in accordance with the official traffic-control devices pertaining to such crossing movements.
  • VTL § 1156. Pedestrians on roadways
    • (a) Where sidewalks are provided and they may be used with safety it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway.
      (b) Where sidewalks are not provided any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall when practicable walk only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction. Upon the approach of any vehicle from the opposite direction, such pedestrian shall move as far to the left as is practicable.

If you are injured in a crosswalk, or as a pedestrian under any circumstances, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights. Call Sam Breslin at 518-650-3733 or visit www.breslinlawgroup.com