The Privileges of Pedestrians & The Duty to Yield to Their Right of Way

Everyone has heard the phrase “pedestrians have the right of way.” The purpose of this blog post is to give you more information on the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians under Louisianalaw. Those rights depend on many different factors, for example, is the pedestrian in a crosswalk or not in a crosswalk? How is the visibility for the driver and the pedestrian? What other traffic controls are present in the area? Is it an emergency situation? And many other factors, which are discussed here.
If you have been to New Orleans lately, you know many pedestrians do not obey traffic signals. It is common both for locals and tourists here to disregard a red-light and cross the street. After you read this article, you may understand why pedestrians are so nonchalant about violating this law.
The law provides that pedestrians must obey traffic control signals, but in the event the pedestrian does not pay attention or disregards the traffic signal, does that mean the pedestrian is at fault if they are hit and injured in an accident? The answer is no. Although pedestrians are bound to follow traffic control signals, they are also afforded certain “privileges”. Louisiana law is very favorable to the “privileges” of pedestrians.
Every driver of a vehicle is required to exercise “due care” to avoid hitting any pedestrian and must give warning by blowing their horn when necessary to avoid an accident with a pedestrian. Drivers are also required to “exercise proper precaution” when observing any child or any confused or drunk individual on a highway. In short, a higher duty of care is placed on the driver when confronted with a pedestrian in any situation. What if the pedestrian is not crossing the road within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection? In this case, the pedestrian should yield to the right-of-way to all vehicles on the road, but as discussed above, drivers on the road also owe a duty to the pedestrian to avoid an accident.

Here is a list of some of the actions pedestrians cannot do:

  1. Suddenly leaving a curb or other place of safety and either walking or running into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver of the vehicle to yield to the pedestrian;
  2. When sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for pedestrians to walk along and upon an adjacent highway; and
  3. A pedestrian cannot cross an interstate highway, except in the case of an emergency. If caught doing so, the pedestrian can be required to perform three 38-hour days of community service activities, at least half of which must consist of participation in a littler abatement or collection program.

The predicaments pedestrians sometimes find themselves in are endless. What about situations when traffic-control signals such as red lights and green lights are either not in place or not working? In this situation, the driver of a vehicle must stop and yield to the right-of-way of the pedestrian crossing a roadway within a crosswalk.

Drivers often get frustrated with pedestrians but must be careful to avoid acting irrationally. For example, what about when you are the driver approaching from the rear and you get annoyed at the car in front of you who keeps letting pedestrians cross? In this circumstance, you as the driver approaching driver cannot overtake and pass the stopped vehicle that is letting the pedestrians cross even if the pedestrians have a red light.

The law also relegates where pedestrians should walk in certain circumstances. Does a pedestrian have a duty to walk on a certain portion of a crosswalk? Interestingly, Louisiana law provides a pedestrian “shall move, whenever practicable, upon the right half of crosswalks.” This law was enacted in 2012 to allow for more distance between the pedestrian and oncoming vehicle traffic. The law also provides that when sidewalks are not available adjacent to a roadway, that a pedestrian must walk on the left side of the highway or its shoulder, facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction. This ensures pedestrians are aware of any oncoming vehicles.A fun fact for a final thought, in Louisiana, people are prohibited from standing “on a public roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride, employment, or business from the occupant of any vehicle.” In New Orleans, we know this law is rarely enforced. There is also a special exception to this rule which allows individuals to solicit contributions from the public for charitable organizations.

With tourists and locals always out and about in New Orleans, pedestrian accidents are bound to happen. If you are injured as a pedestrian by a vehicle, you can recover against the driver of the vehicle and it is likely you will also be covered under the uninsured/under-insured motorists provisions of your own auto insurance policy. If you would like to know more about pedestrians’ rights and privileges, contact us at The Cardone Law Firm for a free, no obligation consultation: 504-522-3333 or

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