It has been a little over a year since Ohio initiated its COVID-19 restrictions. In that time, you might have noticed a number of behavior changes in people, broadly speaking. More amateur chefs have appeared as people have been reluctant to eat in restaurants. Air travel has plummeted as people have turned to the good old fashion road trip for the annual family vacation. And has anyone else noticed an uptick in pedestrian traffic? It seems that gym hesitancy has resulted in many people turning to the streets for their daily exercise. Perhaps even you. It seems that now is a good time to brush up on Ohio’s rules-of-the-road when it comes to pedestrian traffic.
Ask five people the rules-of-the-road for pedestrian traffic and you’ll likely receive five different answers, ranging from, “The pedestrian always has the right-of-way no matter what” to “Pedestrians can only cross in marked crosswalks with a walk signal.” The answer is unfortunately more complicated.
Ohio law classifies pedestrians as elements of traffic, which means a person’s body itself is like a vehicle. Since pedestrians freely move from sidewalks to roadways they are in a somewhat precarious position. Let’s look at the case of the marked crosswalk. If a pedestrian is crossing with the signal in a crosswalk, one would assume they have the right-of-way. This is not exactly true. Even in a crosswalk with the signal, the law requires the pedestrian to yield to someone making a right turn on a red light. Otherwise, the pedestrian will have the right-of-way.
What about the case of the pedestrian crossing the street without a crosswalk? They would never have the right-of-way, would they? Wrong! Where there is an intersection between a road and another road, but there’s no crosswalk present, it’s considered an unmarked crossing, or a “constructive crosswalk.” People who are crossing at a constructive crosswalk have the right-of-way over the driver of a car. That is unless the pedestrian suddenly enters the roadway without warning in what would be considered a “dart-out.” Confused yet?
It is no secret that Ohio’s pedestrian traffic laws can seem illogical, which causes confusion. This confusion often spills over to law enforcement who can have a difficult time figuring out how to assign fault in an injury accident. As a result, many of these accidents become the subject of litigation, leaving it to a group of lay jurors to figure out fault.
Whether walking or driving Ohio’s streets, the best rule of thumb is to practice patience and take a defensive posture. Regardless of who actually has the right-of-way in a given situation, always be prepared for the scenario where those around you are either unaware of the correct rules-of-the-road or will make a mistake that could lead to someone getting hurt. For instance, if you see someone waiting to cross a street, stop your vehicle and allow them to cross, even if you may have the right-of-way. If you’re a pedestrian, take the extra steps necessary to cross in a crosswalk so your intentions cannot be confused.