Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way in Texas?

Pedestrian crossing the street along the highway.

Pedestrians often – but not always – have the right of way in Texas. It depends on the specific circumstances. However, in general, Texas Transportation Code § 552.008 places a duty on drivers to always exercise due care to avoid collisions with pedestrians. They must honk their horns to warn pedestrians (if necessary). They must also use “proper precaution” when they observe a child or “obviously confused or incapacitated person” on the road way.

Right of way laws in Texas. A personal injury lawyer can investigate whether a driver violated Texas’ right of way laws. Under those laws, drivers must yield to pedestrians who are in marked or unmarked crosswalks, on the same half of the roadway as the vehicle or approaching that half from the opposite side of the roadway.

Unfortunately, drivers in Houston and throughout Texas frequently fail to recognize or simply ignore when pedestrians have the right of way. Their careless and reckless actions can carry devastating consequences. Pedestrian accident victims often suffer life-changing injuries. Many of them die from the impact.

If you believe that a negligent driver harmed you or caused the loss of a loved one in a pedestrian accident in Houston or elsewhere in Texas, the attorneys of Fleming Law can help you. We will conduct an immediate investigation to determine whether a driver violated the right of way, and we will aggressively pursue all compensation that you and your family are due. Contact us today to learn more in a free consultation.

How Often Do Pedestrian Accidents Happen in Texas?

It is crucial for pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers alike to have a solid understanding of the right-of-way rules in Texas. Knowing and respecting these rules can go a long way towards the prevention of collisions that affect far too many lives every year in our state. In fact, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, during the five-year period between 2013 and 2017:

  • 27,723 pedestrian accidents occurred in Texas (5,545 per year on average)
  • 2,808 of those accidents were fatal (562 per year)
  • 5,385 of the crashes resulted in suspected serious injuries (1,077 per year).

Pedestrian accidents are especially a problem in Houston. As a recent Houston Chronicle study found, Houston has the fifth-highest “danger ranking” for pedestrians among the country’s 12 largest metro areas. Street design and urban planning clearly are factors. Measures such as the formation of the Houston Walkable Places Committee may, eventually, improve safety for pedestrians. Still, no matter how a street is designed, pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers alike still need to know and follow the state’s right-of-way rules.

Do Drivers Always Have to Yield to Pedestrians in Texas?

Motor vehicle drivers do not always have to yield to pedestrians. Instead, it depends on factors such as whether there is a traffic control signal or crosswalk. Whether the pedestrian and vehicle are on the same half of the roadway also serves as a factor in determining who has the right of way.

Under the Texas Transportation Code, drivers must yield to pedestrians when:

  • A pedestrian control signal displays “Walk,” and a pedestrian crosses the roadway in a crosswalk, going in the direction of the signal.
  • A pedestrian uses a marked or unmarked crosswalk and goes in the direction of a green traffic light signal.
  • A pedestrian crosses the street within a crosswalk and is in the same half of the roadway as the vehicle.
  • A pedestrian uses a crosswalk and approaches closely enough from the opposite side of the roadway to be in danger.
  • A vehicle emerges from an alley, building, private road or driveway and encounters a pedestrian who is walking on a sidewalk that crosses the alley, building, private road or driveway.

Texas law also requires a driver to take necessary precautions to avoid causing injury or danger to a pedestrian who is crossing or attempting to use a crosswalk with the assistance of an animal or a white cane. If bringing the vehicle to a complete stop is the only way to avoid hitting the blind or otherwise disabled pedestrian, then the driver must do so.

Finally, when a driver approaches the rear of a vehicle that has lawfully stopped and yielded to a pedestrian, the driver cannot pass the stopped vehicle.

When Do Pedestrians Have to Yield to Motor Vehicle Drivers in Texas?

In a wide range of situations, pedestrians in Texas must yield to motor vehicle drivers. Under the Texas Transportation Code, those situations are when:

  • A pedestrian comes to an intersection with a steady red or yellow signal.
  • A pedestrian faces a “Wait” or “Don’t Walk” pedestrian control signal at an intersection.
  • A pedestrian tries to cross the street outside of a marked crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
  • A pedestrian crosses the street where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead crossing is available.
  • A pedestrian suddenly leaves the curb or other place of safety and proceeds into a crosswalk in the path of a vehicle so close that it’s impossible for the driver to yield.

Additionally, pedestrians in Texas can cross between two adjacent intersections only when they are in a marked crosswalk. They cannot cross an intersection diagonally unless a traffic control device authorizes it.

Can Pedestrians in Texas Walk Along the Side of the Road?

Under Texas law, pedestrians can walk on the side of the road only when no adjacent sidewalk is available. In other words, if a pedestrian can use the sidewalk, the pedestrian must do so. However, if no sidewalk is provided, the pedestrian can legally walk on the side of the road as long as he or she:

  • Stays to the left side of the roadway; or
  • Uses the shoulder of the highway and faces oncoming traffic.

Remember: Drivers in Texas must always exercise “due care” to avoid hitting pedestrians. So, if a driver encounters a pedestrian who is walking slightly onto the roadway, the driver should take steps such as honking the horn or leaving a safe distance when passing.

What Can Pedestrians Do to Avoid Collisions with Motor Vehicle Drivers?

If you walk to school or work or like to walk or jog for exercise, you should take steps to enhance your safety. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Wear brightly colored clothing (such as a vest with reflective material) if you are walking or running at night.
  • Walk or run on the left side of the road or face oncoming traffic.
  • Always cross at intersections and look left-right-left before you cross.
  • Check for traffic before you step off a bus or cross the street between parked cars.
  • Try to make eye contact with a driver before you cross at an intersection.

Unfortunately, no matter how safe and responsible you are, you can’t control what others do. If a careless or reckless motor vehicle driver hits you while you are walking or jogging, you should take immediate steps to protect your right to recover compensation for all physical, emotional and financial harm that you have suffered.

Are Bikers Considered Pedestrians?

In Texas, bikers are treated as motor vehicle riders – not as pedestrians. Bikers in our state enjoy the same rights as any vehicle driver. They also have the same responsibilities and must follow all of the rules of the road, including yielding to pedestrians where the law requires them to do so.

Texas has no statewide law that bans bicycle riders from using sidewalks. However, many cities have ordinances which address this issue. For instance, in Houston, bicyclists cannot use sidewalks:

  • In a business district such as The Galleria or downtown area, or
  • Where “no bicycling” signs are posted.

If a biker is in an area where sidewalk use is allowed, the biker must yield to pedestrians.

How Can a Lawyer Help You After a Pedestrian Accident?

If a negligent motor vehicle driver hit you or a loved one while walking, Fleming Law will aggressively pursue all compensation that you are due. As part of that process, we will take steps such as:

  • Conducting a timely and thorough investigation of the collision to determine why it happened and who should be held responsible for it.
  • Carefully calculating all of your damages, including past and future medical expenses, lost income, diminishment of future earning ability, pain and suffering and more.
  • Identifying all sources of compensation available to you, including the negligent driver’s insurance coverage and insurance coverage of your own.
  • Demanding a full and fair settlement of your pedestrian injury claim.
  • Taking your case to trial if that’s what it takes to pursue what you are due.

Our attorneys are skilled and experienced litigators. We know how to prepare for success in the courtroom, which gives us leverage when we negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of our clients.

Get Help from Our Houston Pedestrian Accident Attorneys Today

If you or a family member suffered a serious injury after being hit by a car while crossing the street or walking on a sidewalk or along the road, and you have questions about your legal rights, take action now. Contact us today to receive a free and confidential consultation.

Brendan Fleming - attorney

Brendan received his JD from South Texas College of Law and his MBA from Baylor University. He then began his legal career as in-house counsel for a publicly-traded company, advising on matters such as mergers and acquisitions, securities, compliance, and general corporate transactions. He then worked at a national law firm in which he represented commercial banks, private equity firms, and business owners in complex transactions before joining Fleming Law, Brendan uses his considerable knowledge of business-related matters by working on cases involving business law, real estate law, and contracts. Connect with me on LinkedIn