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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Pedestrian crossings

We’ve all seen close calls between pedestrians and autos, and we often hear reports of the disastrous results occurring when the two make contact. 

The title of  Washington laws pertaining to pedestrians, “Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties,” infers that pedestrians have expected responsibilities along with their rights.

For starters, Revised Code of Washington 46.61.230 reminds us that pedestrians are subject to traffic control signals at intersections.  Besides that basic tenet, there are numerous other RCWs governing pedestrians’ privileges and restrictions.

RCW 46.61.235 states, “The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section ‘half of the roadway’ means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway.”  The mention of “unmarked” crosswalks in that text refers to the legal recognition of pedestrian crosswalks at all roadway intersections, whether or not painted lines exist.

Pedestrian crossings do not exist mid-block unless marked.  A rather lengthy RCW 46.61.240 tells us, in part, “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.”  To do so is jaywalking and dangerous.

Drivers should note any vehicle that is stopped ahead in the roadway.  The reason for their stop is likely to allow a pedestrian crossing.  On roadways with multiple lanes in the same direction, it’s a common occurrence.  A driver approaching a vehicle stopped in the right-hand lane may move left to pass, only to realize there is a pedestrian squarely in their path.  A similar catastrophe can occur when a driver doesn’t realize why an oncoming vehicle is stopped.

Vigilance and reasoning are important when you see a stopped vehicle.  If you can’t figure it out on your own, RCW 46.61.235 spells it out by noting, “Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.”

There is also a clause for pedestrians in RCW 46.61.235 that cautions: “No pedestrian or bicycle shall 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.”  However, because of a mismatch of mass, vehicle operators carry the brunt of responsibility for mishaps under RCW 46.61.245.  It states, “Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this chapter every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.”

Regardless of rights or determined fault, who wants to strike a pedestrian? Armed with an understanding of applicable laws, vehicles and pedestrians coupling common sense with proper caution should be able to harmoniously coexist.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at