The Washington State Department of Transportation provides an excellent on-line resource for Washington traffic laws. From their section on pedestrians, found here: https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/walk/Laws.htm, the following important laws are summarized:
- Traffic signals – Pedestrians must obey traffic signals and traffic control devices unless otherwise directed by a traffic or police officer (RCW 46.61.050).
- Sidewalks – Drivers and bicyclists must yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks (RCW 46.61.261).
- Pedestrians on roadways – Pedestrians must use sidewalks when they are available. If sidewalks are not available, pedestrians must walk on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic (RCW 46.61.250).
- Bolting into traffic – No pedestrian or bicycle shall suddenly leave a curb and move into traffic so that the driver can not stop (RCW 46.61.235).
- Stop for pedestrians at intersections – Vehicles shall stop at intersections to allow pedestrians and bicycles to cross the road within a marked or unmarked crosswalk (RCW 46.61.235). See Washington’s Crosswalk Law for more information.
Each of these rules, however, has interplay in the real world with each other and the unique facts of each incident. While a pedestrian has the right of way at both marked and unmarked intersections, they also have the duty not to leave a safe place (the sidewalk) unless or until they have taken the time to look and ascertain that it is safe to proceed. Once they have entered the crosswalk safely, the pedestrian has no further duty to look out for traffic. This is legally correct, but not advisable. Also, the perception of safety might not be accurate due to a driver coming around a corner, leaving a driveway, or deceiving the pedestrian into believing there was enough time to cross in front of the car – though if the car was speeding, the pedestrian could have been deceived into believing that they had more time than they would have had had the car been going the speed limit.
Any pedestrian versus vehicle collision needs to be reviewed by an experienced attorney. Legal liability in these cases is complex and fact-dependent. Moreover, the insurance law surrounding pedestrian claims is very complicated and most people will not know how to properly utilize the different types of insurance that apply in these circumstances, and how they interact with one another.