Failure to Yield at Unsignalized Location

Failure to Yield at Unsignalized Location

Safety is an issue when a motorist or pedestrian comes upon an unsignalized location, which is usually an intersection. Not all intersections have stoplights or stop signs for traffic, nor do they all have crosswalks for pedestrians. Pedestrians and bicyclists are particularly vulnerable at unsignalized locations where one or more approaches by motorists are not required to stop.

It is not always clear who has the right of way at locations that lack traffic signs or devices. In many states, pedestrians will usually have the right of way absent some circumstance such as suddenly running into the area in front of a car. If there is a marked crosswalk, some states may still hold pedestrians at fault if they failed to use caution when entering it. Other states will find fault in most cases with a motorist who strikes a pedestrian in the crosswalk. For reference, the Uniform Vehicle Code states that any motorist must yield to a pedestrian in a marked or unmarked intersection.

Visibility is often a problem at an unsignalized location since motorists tend to look only one way when entering it and often fail to see a pedestrian walking into it from the other direction.

If you come upon an intersection with no signs or other traffic control devices, exercise extreme caution. Cell phones should be put away while looking both ways for approaching vehicles. If any vehicles are fast approaching, then wait until they pass before stepping into the intersection even if it has a marked crosswalk. Should a vehicle slow, be sure to make eye contact with the motorist before proceeding.

Motorists who are turning or proceeding towards an unsignalized intersection should also use caution. It is not unlawful to continue at the speed limit through the intersection without slowing but if a pedestrian has stepped out into the street, crosswalk or not, the motorist may be held liable in most states if a collision occurs.

There are some studies regarding accidents at unsignalized locations. One study conducted by a professor at the University of Wisconsin found some patterns involving motorists and pedestrians at these locations:

1Width of the road.
The wider the road, the less likely a motorist will yield to a pedestrian. Motorists are inclined to speed up on a wider road naturally.
2Pedestrian volume.
In areas of high pedestrian density, drivers are more likely to yield since they are anticipating more pedestrians. Also, pedestrians tend to be more assertive in numbers.
3Region of the country.
For some unexplained reason, motorists in the western states are more accommodating to pedestrians than in other parts of the country. The authors of the study had no definitive reason for the difference other drivers might be more educated or attuned to this issue or how the traffic laws are enforced.

The speed limit on a roadway also influences driver behavior in stopping for pedestrians. Higher speeds mean drivers will yield less often to pedestrians.

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