We’ve all heard the saying “pedestrians always have the right-of-way,” but just how true is that advice? If you were to get hit by a vehicle while crossing a roadway, is it always the driver’s fault? The truth is, when determining fault in an accident (specifically involving a pedestrian), negligence is usually the deciding factor. In other words, the court will decide which party departed from the conduct expected of a reasonable person acting under similar circumstances, and he or she will typically be the at-fault party. The bottom line is walking along any roadway is very dangerous, and knowing your state’s laws and your rights as a pedestrian will prove to be a valuable asset in the event of an accident.

First, it’s important to understand the value of pedestrian laws by understanding the dangers they’re intended to prevent:

– In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States (4,432 in 2011 (5)), and another 70,000 pedestrians were injured. (4)

– Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip. (4)

– Pedestrian deaths occur in 17 percent of all traffic fatalities. (2)

Now let’s look at what Alabama law says. If you’ve ever walked through a congested downtown area, or perhaps a busy event of any kind, chances are you’ve probably broken the law. Of course, it is commonly known that crossing a road (that has a crosswalk) without using the crosswalk is a crime. That’s jaywalking 101. However, many do not realize that when crossing a roadway that does not have a crosswalk, it is the pedestrian’s responsibility to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.

Pedestrians are also not to immediately walk or run into (or close to) traffic. That’s not to say you’ll automatically be at-fault if an accident occurs in such a situation, but it helps to know that vehicles do have the right-of-way if a crosswalk is not present.

Crossing the Road- (1)

Here are a few more little-known Alabama laws governing pedestrians:

– Pedestrians are not to cross any traffic intersection diagonally.

– If a sidewalk is provided, it is unlawful to walk on an adjacent roadway.

– Pedestrians walking along a two-way roadway without a sidewalk or shoulder are to walk only on the left side of the roadway.

– Pedestrians are not to be on the roadway if they are:

– Under the influence of alcohol or drugs

– Soliciting a ride

– Soliciting employment, business, or contributions from the occupant of any vehicle

– Fishing

However, drivers have a certain amount of obligation under Alabama law as well. If a crosswalk is present, drivers must of course yield to pedestrians. What’s more, Alabama drivers are not to pass from the rear any vehicle stopped at a crosswalk. Drivers also are required to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian and should sound the horn as a warning.

Should an accident occur and the pedestrian be found liable, who pays for damages? This varies from state to state and also depends on the amount and type of auto insurance carried by the pedestrian. For instance, if a pedestrian causes an accident, certain insurance policies provide liability limits to cover the damages. On the other hand, if an accident is caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver and a pedestrian is injured, the pedestrian’s insurance policies could cover the damages. Again, it all depends on the insurance policies carried and the laws of the state. Check with your insurance agent to find out if your policy covers you when you are outside of your vehicle.

When it comes down to it, pedestrians and drivers both have an obligation to exercise reasonable care. Walking along any roadway is a dangerous situation due to the amount of exposure to injury, and the risk of serious injury is high. Don’t assume that if you are a pedestrian you automatically have the right-of-way. Knowing your obligations and your rights as a pedestrian, as well as respecting the dangers associated with walking near traffic, will help prevent accidents and reduce the chance of being held liable for such occurrences.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an auto accident, we can help. Contact our office at 256-232-2310 and let us go to work for you. Click here to talk to us about your case.


  1. http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/alcode/32/5A/10
  2. http://sgtinjuryattorneys.com/fact-or-fiction-pedestrians-always-have-the-right-of-way/
  3. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/car-accidents-with-pedestrians-30113.html
  4. http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/pedestrian_safety/factsheet.html
  5. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811748.pdf

This media does not constitute professional legal advice.  Please consult your attorney on any legal matters.