Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way When Jaywalking?

February 15, 2023

Walking to local destinations within the community for errands or exercise is a healthy choice for the body and the environment. No one expects a walk to end in a pedestrian accident, but 899 fatalities occurred from pedestrian deaths in Florida in 2021, an increase of over 180 deaths from 2020, making Florida the second-highest pedestrian fatality state in the country. Orlando is at the top of the country’s list for pedestrian deaths in the last decade with an astonishing 583 deaths from pedestrian accidents.

When both pedestrians and drivers understand and adhere to all traffic laws relating to pedestrians, it minimizes the risk to vulnerable people walking in their communities.

One common question is: “Do pedestrians have the right of way when they’re jaywalking?

What is Jaywalking?

Jaywalking is the term used to describe a pedestrian crossing the street without using a marked crosswalk or crossing mid-block instead of at a corner intersection. The term “jaywalking” derives from early days in the automotive world when people from rural areas were sometimes called “jays,” and faced derision for not knowing how to cross a city street while visiting urban areas. The word “jaywalking” is not used anywhere in Florida law just as the law never describes a vehicle or pedestrian as having the right of way. Instead, the law only addresses the right of way when it directs a vehicle or pedestrian to YIELD their right of way. The intention is to highlight the idea that no driver automatically has the right of way if a pedestrian is present, in the sense that they cannot push ahead if a pedestrian is in their path regardless of the rules of right of way. Even in cases when a pedestrian breaks jaywalking rules, the Florida law expects drivers to yield in order to keep them safe.

What Does Florida Law Say About Jaywalking?

Florida’s statutes state that “Every pedestrian crossing a road at any point other than a marked crosswalk or at an unmarked crosswalk in an intersection must yield the right of way to vehicles on the roadway.”

The law also states that vehicles must always grant the right of way to pedestrians on a sidewalk, even when making a turn that crosses a sidewalk whether or not the sidewalk is marked as a crosswalk.

Florida Pedestrian and Jaywalking Laws

Although Florida’s Uniform Traffic Control Law does not make jaywalking illegal and expects drivers to practice due diligence to keep pedestrians safe, it doesn’t mean that pedestrians always have the right of way. Pedestrians must familiarize themselves with the following points of law in Florida:

  • Pedestrians must walk with the flow of traffic when sidewalks are present but against the flow of traffic on the shoulder of the road when walking along roadways without sidewalks
  • If there is a sidewalk available, pedestrians must walk on the sidewalk rather than on the shoulder of the road
  • Pedestrians must follow all traffic control signals at intersections
  • Except in marked crosswalks, pedestrians must cross a roadway at right angles to the curb
  • Pedestrians must not step into a roadway to cross without ensuring that the road is clear so moving vehicles do not have to yield to them

The last point on the above list indicates that pedestrians do not have the right of way while jaywalking even though drivers must still yield if faced with a jaywalker in order to ensure the pedestrian’s safety.

Sadly, young children and the elderly are the most frequently injured in pedestrian accidents. Not only do elderly people have slower reaction times, but they are more likely to choose to walk for local errands compared to younger adults. On the other hand, children have less impulse control and awareness than adults and may not have any knowledge or understanding of road rules.

Regardless of right or way and jaywalking laws, Florida drivers have the responsibility to practice vigilance when driving with the goal of keeping all pedestrians safe.

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