In New Jersey, pedestrian safety is a critical aspect of road usage, underscored by specific laws designed to protect those on foot. Both pedestrians and drivers share the responsibility of ensuring safety on the roads. However, a common question arises: Do pedestrians always have the right of way?  This article delves into New Jersey's pedestrian right-of-way laws, debunking myths and providing a clear understanding of both pedestrians' and drivers' responsibilities. With insights from The Epstein Law Firm, this guide aims to clarify the legal landscape and highlight the importance of adherence to these regulations.

The Legal Framework: New Jersey Pedestrian Right of Way Laws

New Jersey Statute 39:4-36

New Jersey's pedestrian right-of-way laws are comprehensive and aim to balance the safety of pedestrians with the efficient flow of traffic. According to New Jersey Statute 39:4-36, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians in marked crosswalks and at intersections with no traffic signals. This law underscores the priority given to pedestrian safety in designated areas where they are most vulnerable.

Pedestrian Responsibilities

Pedestrians are required to use crosswalks at intersections whenever they are available. Jaywalking, or crossing streets outside of marked crosswalks, is not only illegal but also increases the risk of accidents. Pedestrians should wait for the walk signal at intersections equipped with traffic lights and should not enter the crosswalk if the signal indicates not to walk. In areas without marked crosswalks, drivers still have a duty to exercise due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians. This includes honking the horn to warn pedestrians when necessary and being extra cautious in areas with high pedestrian activity, such as school zones and residential areas.

Common Myths about Pedestrian Right of Way

Myth 1: Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way

There are several myths about pedestrian right-of-way laws that can lead to misunderstandings and unsafe practices. One common myth is that pedestrians always have the right of way, regardless of where they cross. In reality, pedestrians only have the right of way in marked crosswalks and at intersections. Crossing outside these areas can lead to citations for jaywalking and increased danger of accidents.

Myth 2: Drivers Only Yield in Crosswalks

Another myth is that drivers are only responsible for yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks. While crosswalks are the primary locations for pedestrian crossings, drivers must also exercise due care and caution to avoid accidents anywhere pedestrians may be present. This includes situations where pedestrians might be crossing illegally or unexpectedly entering the roadway.

Myth 3: Pedestrian Signals Are Optional

A third myth is that pedestrian signals are optional. Some pedestrians believe they can cross whenever they feel it is safe, regardless of the traffic signals. However, disobeying pedestrian signals is not only illegal but also highly dangerous. Pedestrians must adhere to traffic signals to ensure their safety and the orderly flow of traffic.

Responsibilities of Pedestrians and Drivers

Pedestrian Responsibilities

Both pedestrians and drivers have crucial roles in maintaining road safety. Pedestrians should always use marked crosswalks and adhere to pedestrian signals. They should remain vigilant, making eye contact with drivers before crossing to ensure they are seen. Additionally, pedestrians should avoid distractions, such as using mobile phones while crossing streets, and should wear visible clothing, especially during low-light conditions.

Driver Responsibilities

Drivers, on the other hand, must yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections, as mandated by law. They should approach crosswalks with caution, particularly in areas with high pedestrian traffic. Drivers must be prepared to stop, even if a pedestrian is just approaching the crosswalk. It's also essential for drivers to avoid distractions, such as texting or using a mobile phone, which can significantly increase the risk of not noticing pedestrians. Both parties must understand that road safety is a shared responsibility. Pedestrians should not assume that drivers will always see them or yield, while drivers should not assume that pedestrians will always follow the rules perfectly.

Legal Consequences and Enforcement

Penalties for Drivers

Violations of pedestrian right-of-way laws in New Jersey come with legal consequences. Drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks can face fines and points on their driving record. The penalties are more severe if the violation results in injury to the pedestrian. In such cases, drivers may face criminal charges, including fines, imprisonment, and a suspension of their driving license.

Penalties for Pedestrians

Pedestrians also face penalties for jaywalking or disobeying traffic signals. While these fines are generally less severe than those for drivers, they serve as a reminder of the importance of following pedestrian laws to ensure personal safety.

The Epstein Law Firm Assistance

The Epstein Law Firm offers comprehensive legal assistance for individuals involved in pedestrian-related incidents. Whether you are a pedestrian injured by a negligent driver or a driver facing charges for failing to yield, The Epstein Law Firm can provide expert legal guidance. Our firm is dedicated to ensuring that justice is served and that our clients receive the support they need during such challenging times.

Contact The Epstein Law Firm Today

Understanding pedestrian right-of-way laws in New Jersey is crucial for both pedestrians and drivers. By debunking common myths and outlining the legal framework and responsibilities, we aim to promote safer road usage for everyone. Remember, road safety is a shared responsibility, and adherence to these laws can prevent accidents and save lives. For any legal issues related to pedestrian incidents, The Epstein Law Firm is here to help you navigate the complexities of the law and ensure your rights are protected. Contact us today at 201-231-7847 or schedule a consultation online to learn more.