Always Look Both Ways

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

When we’re kids, adults always tell us to look both ways before crossing the street. And it’s good advice, but not just for pedestrians.

On our way home, we were sitting at a red light when all of a sudden, a girls shouts, “what the fuck are you doing?!” I looked over to see a young woman in the crosswalk yelling at the driver of a car in the right-hand lane that was well into the crosswalk.

We didn’t see what happened, but I suspect that the driver pulled up to the intersection, looked to the left for oncoming traffic, then started to pull into the intersection without first checking to see if any pedestrians were crossing. After seeing all of this, I looked up at the crossing signal, which showed a steady hand.

The guy in the car didn’t check for pedestrians, but the girl didn’t obey the traffic light, so which of them was at fault?

Unfortunately, looking through Washington state’s pedestrian laws don’t provide many answers. RCW 46.61.050 states that pedestrians must obey traffic signals; so by that token, the girl was at fault. However, RCW 46.61.235 requires drivers yield to pedestrians at intersections (regardless of whether the crosswalk is marked or not), and RCW 46.61.245 requires drivers to avoid colliding with pedestrians. Then again, RCW 46.61.235 dictates that pedestrians can’t suddenly enter the roadway such that drivers cannot stop in time.

I think it’s safe to say that mistakes were made on both sides, but if the case went to court, I would bet that any jury would find in favor of the pedestrian. What do you think? Who was at fault in this instance?

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3 Comments

  1. Tom D

    What I always remember hearing is that the pedestrian always has the right of way, but then again, that could be clearly defined codes in CA, and not here. Safe bet, the Pedestrian wins.

  2. LG

    Can they both lose in court for being dumbasses?

  3. I think there is such a thing as mutual fault, but like you and Tom said, the pedestrian might win even though she didn’t obey the light.

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