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Understanding Right-of-Way Traffic Laws in NYC

group of people walking in NYC

Staying Safe as a New York Pedestrian

In the bustling streets of New York City, understanding pedestrian rights and traffic laws is crucial. Things tend to move in fast and unpredictable ways in NYC, and traffic is no exception. Traffic laws and regulations can be confusing to keep up with, especially for those who are new to the area or unfamiliar with state laws.

While commuting within the city that never sleeps can be exciting and energizing, it's important for out-and-about New Yorkers to prioritize their safety and the safety of others around them to avoid inflicting or reaping life-altering harm. Who has the right-of-way in the crowded NYC streets?

Keep reading to learn more about how to safely yield as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motor vehicle operator in New York.

Understanding Right-of-Way Traffic Laws in NYC

As a commuter, understanding who has the right-of-way is essential to stay safe and protect your legal rights. In New York, various state and local laws dictate when pedestrians have the right of way and when they do not. Generally, on-foot commuters have the legal right-of-way in most cases. However, like many areas of the law, this is never a guarantee, as situations can vary based on the unique circumstances involved.

When it comes to traffic laws in New York, various exceptions and nuances can also apply in certain circumstances. For example, in pedestrian accidents, pedestrians may be considered at fault if they suddenly leave the curb or step into the path of an oncoming vehicle. When do pedestrians have the right-of-way? Generally, New York pedestrians have the right of way when:

  • Using sidewalks
  • Using crosswalks with a green signal
  • Following the “walk” signal at intersections

Below are some key facts for pedestrians to understand about commuting on foot in New York City:

Pedestrians vs. Cyclists

Unfortunately, bicycle accidents involving pedestrians are common in NYC. While cyclists must follow traffic laws and exercise caution around pedestrians, pedestrians should also be mindful of cyclists—especially while in designated bike lanes or shared spaces. Pedestrians should yield to cyclists when crossing bike lanes and be aware of their surroundings to avoid accidents.

Pedestrians vs. Motor Vehicle Operators

Typically, pedestrians have the right-of-way over motor vehicles in marked and unmarked crosswalks, unless they are crossing against the light. Even so, it’s essential to exercise caution and be aware of oncoming vehicles, particularly when crossing streets without traffic signals or designated crosswalks. To ensure safety, pedestrians should yield to motor vehicles when necessary to avoid being injured in car accidents, such as in the event that drivers are not paying attention, exhibit a lack of awareness of traffic regulations, or have low visibility due to weather or related circumstances. Because New York Law provides for “comparative negligence”, a driver who strikes a pedestrian crossing against the light could still be held responsible for a large portion of a pedestrian’s injuries.

Pedestrians vs. Other Pedestrians

In crowded areas, pedestrians must use reasonable care for both their safety and the safety of others. This may mean yielding to faster or larger groups of pedestrians in certain situations. Factors like location, time of day, weather, and visibility can also impact these scenarios. For example, during peak hours in crowded areas, it’s wise to exercise additional caution as a New York pedestrian. On days involving poor weather conditions or low visibility, it’s all the more crucial for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike to be extremely careful while navigating busy NYC streets.

Tips for New York Pedestrians to Commute Safely

More often than not, pedestrians have the legal right-of-way in NYC. However, traffic laws are never enough to prevent serious harm and accidents from occurring, as even well-meaning people can injure others in moments of distraction, emotion, or unawareness. For this reason, it’s imperative for New York pedestrians to always stay wary of other drivers, bicyclists, e-scooter operators, bus drivers, truck drivers, and anyone else traversing busy NYC streets. This is especially important at times of low visibility such as night time and bad weather.

Consider the following safety tips for pedestrians to stay safe in New York traffic:

  • Pay attention to traffic signals – Always follow pedestrian signals and never start crossing if the ‘Don’t Walk’ signal is flashing or steady.
  • Stay visible – Wear bright or reflective clothing, especially at night or in bad weather, to make sure drivers can see you.
  • Use crosswalks – Always cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians.
  • Stay Alert – Avoid distractions like mobile devices and keep an eye out for cars and bikes turning into your path.

Remember, as a big-city pedestrian, your safety is paramount. Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian can go a long way in preventing accidents and ensuring a safer New York City for everyone. If you or a loved one were injured in an NYC accident, it’s important to seek counsel from a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Advocating on Behalf of New York’s Injured

At Koenigsberg & Associates, we’re committed to advocating on behalf of New York’s injured. Our passionate personal injury lawyers understand the frustration of paying the price of another’s negligence. From accumulating medical expenses to legal costs to recovering physically, emotionally, and psychologically, many New Yorkers suffer serious harm after being injured in an accident.

With over 25 years of legal experience and successful jury verdicts and settlements, our firm has the specialized knowledge and skillset to demand maximum compensation on your behalf after an injury. Whether you were injured in a vehicle, on a bicycle, or while commuting on foot, our experienced firm is here to provide the personalized legal solutions and high-end representation you deserve..

It’s crucial to take swift legal action after sustaining an injury in NYC. Call (718) 690-3132 to request a consultation with a skilled personal injury lawyer.

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