Washington DC Pedestrian Laws

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Washington DC Pedestrian Laws

Unfortunately, pedestrian accidents are far too common in Washington, DC. Pedestrians in Washington, DC, have certain rights and laws to be observed for safety. This article will discuss the most critical laws about pedestrians in Washington, DC, including traffic signals and right-of-way rules.

Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

If you have been involved in an accident as a pedestrian in Washington DC, speak with our experienced pedestrian accident lawyers. A Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, P.C., attorney can help you understand the state laws pertaining to pedestrian rights and will be able to advise you on any legal action that may need to be taken. Contact us for a free consultation today.

pedestrian accident, guy being hit by a car

Overview of Pedestrian Laws in Washington DC

• Pedestrians always have the right of way over motor vehicles.

• Pedestrians should obey traffic signals and look both ways before crossing.

• When crossing the street, use designated crosswalks when possible.

• Wear reflective clothing when walking at night for better visibility.

• If you are involved in an accident as a pedestrian, always call 911.

What Are The Different Types of Pedestrian Rights and Responsibilities According to D.C. Law?

Pedestrians in Washington DC have certain rights, such as the right of way over motor vehicles, and responsibilities, such as obeying the walk signal at an intersection. Other pedestrian rights include:

• The right to use designated crosswalks when crossing a street.

• The right to yield to oncoming traffic if no traffic signal or crosswalk is present.

• The responsibility to pay attention to their surroundings and always look both ways before crossing a street.

• The responsibility to wear reflective clothing when walking at night for better visibility.

• The right to call 911 if involved in a pedestrian accident.

Right of Way

Under Washington DC laws, pedestrians always have the right of way over motor vehicles. Pedestrians should not enter a crosswalk if any cars are in the intersection; these drivers must yield to anyone crossing or about to cross. It is also illegal for any driver to pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk out of deference to pedestrians.


Jaywalking is defined as crossing a street at an intersection without using the crosswalk or not obeying the appropriate walk signal. Jaywalking can be dangerous, and it is illegal in Washington, DC. Pedestrians should always use designated crosswalks when crossing a street; if no crosswalk is available, pedestrians must yield to oncoming vehicles before crossing.

Traffic Signals

Pedestrians should always follow traffic light signals when crossing the street in Washington, DC. If a traffic signal does not exist, follow the same rules as those for vehicles; look both ways and cross only when it is safe. Pedestrians generally should never enter an intersection against a red light; they must wait for the signal to change or yield to vehicles with the right of way.

Distracted Walking

Finally, pedestrians should be aware that distracted walking, like texting or talking on a cell phone, can be dangerous and is against the law in Washington, DC. Pedestrians should always remain aware of their surroundings and take extra caution when crossing streets to ensure safety.

pedestrians crossing the road following pedestrian law

Contributory Negligence and Pedestrian Accidents in Washington DC

Contributory Negligence

Before 2016, pedestrians and cyclists in Washington, D.C., faced a harsh legal standard known as contributory negligence. Even if they were only 1% at fault for a collision with a vehicle, they were not allowed to obtain financial damages for their injuries. This meant they could suffer serious injuries, or even catastrophic injuries, due to someone else’s negligence and still have no legal rights to seek compensation.

The Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2020

However, the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2020 changed this for vulnerable road users like pedestrians and motorcyclists. Under this law, plaintiffs can recover up to 100% of their losses as long as they were no more than 50% at fault for the collision. This law uses comparative negligence, which compares each party’s fault rather than determining if the plaintiff contributed at all.

According to the amendment, “‘Vulnerable user ‘means an individual using an all-terrain vehicle, bicycle, dirt bike, electric mobility device, motorcycle, motorized bicycle, motor-driven cycle, non-motorized scooter, personal mobility device, skateboard, or other similar devices.”

If you qualify as a “vulnerable user”, you will not be denied compensation if you were in an accident with a car unless you are determined to be more than 50% negligent.

Pedestrian Safety Tips For Vehicle Drivers and Pedestrians Alike

Pedestrian safety should be taken seriously by both drivers and pedestrians alike. Here are some tips for ensuring the safety of everyone on the roads:

• Obey traffic signals when crossing a street, including designated crosswalks.

• Look both ways before crossing a street or intersection, even if no signal is present.

• Wear reflective clothing when walking at night for better visibility to drivers.

• Yield to pedestrians with the right of way in an intersection or crosswalk.

• Avoid distracted walking, such as texting or talking on a cell phone while crossing streets.

• Check for passing vehicles when exiting parked cars.

• Never pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk out of deference to pedestrians.

• When in doubt, choose caution and follow the rules of the road to ensure everyone’s safety.

These tips can help keep pedestrians and drivers safe on District of Columbia roads. Pedestrians can stay safe and enjoy their time in the district with everyone working together.

pedestrian crossing the road following pedestrian laws

Penalties for Violating Pedestrian Laws in Washington DC

Washington, D.C., is serious about keeping pedestrians safe on the roads, enforcing stiff penalties for those who violate pedestrian laws. Penalties can range from fines to jail time, depending on the circumstances of the incident.

For example, a driver who fails to yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk could face up to $500 in fines and up to 30 days in jail. Drivers who are reckless or disregard pedestrians’ safety could face even harsher penalties. In addition, drivers who injure a pedestrian while violating a pedestrian law may also be held liable for damages in a civil lawsuit.

Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents Include:

• Failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians in a marked crosswalk.

• A vehicle attempting to make a turn at an intersection and failing to see a pedestrian crossing the street.

• Driving recklessly, such as speeding or running a red light.

• Distracted driving, such as texting while driving.

• Unfamiliarity with the area, including unfamiliar traffic patterns and roadways.

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

• Poor visibility, such as nighttime driving or inclement weather.

Drivers should be aware of these potential causes and take extra care when driving in areas with a high concentration of pedestrians.

By following these tips and laws, drivers can ensure the safety of all pedestrians on District of Columbia roads and reduce the risk of severe pedestrian accident. In the event of an accident, victims should seek the help of a Washington, DC, pedestrian accident lawyer to ensure they receive total compensation for their injuries.

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel P.C. Are Committed To The Protection of Pedestrians In Washington DC

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel P.C., we are committed to protecting pedestrians in Washington, DC. We understand the importance of pedestrian safety and work tirelessly to ensure that those injured by negligent drivers receive just compensation for their damages. Our experienced legal team has a long history of advocating for injured pedestrians and fighting for their rights in a court of law. If you or someone you love were injured by an irresponsible driver, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Let our experienced attorneys fight for you and your family’s rights. We are here to serve you every step of the way.

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