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Assuming there are no traffic lights, stop signs, yield signs, or any other signs, and that there is simply a zebra crossing / crosswalk painted on the road.

Are drivers legally required to stop to allow pedestrians to cross?

I understand that the answer to this question may vary across jurisdictions, but is there perhaps a general rule in the US? It seems that at least in Michigan, drivers seem to pay little attention to these crosswalks, which makes me wonder what purpose they serve.

  • As a general 'rule' to keep in the back of your head: always be wary when using zebra crossings as a pedestrian. Drivers are obligate to stop, but there are few cultures where everybody actually does this. – Lee White Oct 16 '14 at 6:23
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    Just a comment because this is related to Italy rather than Michigan: Yes, a driver is legally required to stop to allow a pedestrian to cross. But no, almost nobody will stop to let you cross, sorry. – STT LCU Oct 16 '14 at 7:08
  • I feel very strongly that I should point out (being that I was born and raised in Michigan) that there are no zebras in Michigan, outside Zoos. :D – CGCampbell Oct 16 '14 at 14:23
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    @STTLCU: "In Milan, a stop light is an order. In Rome, it is a suggestion. In Naples, it is a decoration." – Tim Lymington supports Monica Oct 16 '14 at 17:20
  • This is a duplicate question! – jvriesem May 21 '15 at 7:37
13

Michigan specific information

Michigan does have a section of law regarding traffic control areas. This mostly deals with crosswalks at signals, but portions of it refer to crosswalks in general. See state statute 257.612 which deals with disabled individuals crossing at any crosswalk, not just signal locations.

There is also a definition of school crossing which is very broad. It simply requires that it was designated by regulation to be a school crossing. Children have the right away and vehicles must stop.

Finally, the definition of a crosswalk in Michigan is setup in 257.10(b) which states that the crosswalk is any designated walkway for pedestrian crossing.

Your mileage may vary with regards to getting a ticket for entering a crosswalk, but I would not take the risk. Outside of putting others in danger, there is a very real chance that these statutes apply to you as the driver even if there is not a specific law that says so much in one sentence.

If you run into the unfortunate circumstance that a person is injured or killed by your vehicle, even if the crosswalk is in the middle of the block, the prosecutor will likely use the above statutes to press charges.

The best thing you can do is to stop for pedestrians in such situations. In Michigan, it may be a legal grey area, but in reality, it is the right thing to do.

Original Answer (the question used to ask for a general driving rule in the United States)

As a general rule, states give pedestrians the right of way when in any marked crosswalk or while crossing at any intersection (marked or unmarked).

Many states, including my home state of Minnesota, set up sting operations where the police will secretly watch a corner and hire a pedestrian to walk out into the crosswalk. If a motorist does not stop, they will be issued a ticket.

Failing to stop for a walker where "zebra stripes" are present, even in the case that the stripes are in the middle of a roadway (not at a corner), is usually grounds for a fine.

In most jurisdictions, one must assume that failing to stop for a pedestrian is a ticketable offence.

Here are a few example laws for your reference. It would be too much to list every state and local jurisdiction.

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    Thanks @pnuts, I thought it was strange that the title changed, even though the question still asks for a general rule (not a specific rule for Michigan), anyway, I appreciate the notification of title change and have included additional information for those Google searchers who come here looking for Michigan rules. – Terry Oct 16 '14 at 13:49
  • In this specific case, if the totality of the question were to be broadened to cover the entire US, it would probably be flagged/closed as too broad, since these laws are state and not federal. That would mean 50 answers (plus USVI, PR and AS). A generalized statement could be made, such as "look up the applicable state laws", which wouldn't be very helpful. – CGCampbell Oct 16 '14 at 14:32
  • @Terry Which part of section 257.612 of the Michigan Vehicle Code you are linking to refers to crosswalks in general? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 17 '14 at 1:15
  • Portions that refer to crosswalks in general... for example, part (4) regarding pedestrians using walking devices refers to any pedestrian crossing area, not just at an intersection. – Terry Oct 17 '14 at 2:03
  • Part (4) is about disabled pedestrians and not crosswalks in general. What else? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 17 '14 at 11:34
21

In the US, crosswalks are regulated in state laws and most states have some sort of regulation that motorized vehicles must yield for pedestrians being within a crosswalk. This is of course quite odd, since in most situations, the pedestrian must move into the road and potentially put himself in danger, to get the right of way on his side.

Michigan is one exception, having absolutely no legal regulations regarding non-signalized crosswalks.

You can find much more information and background details in "Right of Way in the Crosswalk – Legislative Solutions to Making the Cars Stop Without Entering the Killing Zone" written by Ray Thomas, Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Attorney.

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    From your cited paper: "Michigan law appears to grant pedestrians no legal rights whatsoever when crossing non-signalized marked or unmarked crosswalks." Remarkable. I wonder then what purpose such crosswalks are meant to serve. – Kenny LJ Oct 15 '14 at 20:59
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    @KennyLJ: Unless there are any laws regulating the behaviour of motorized traffic at crosswalks, the first and foremost purpose of crosswalks is generally to channel pedestrians, so they at least cross the street in groups. A group of people is less likely to be overlooked by an unattentive driver than a single pedestrian, and along the same vein, a generally unattentive driver is more likely to pay some attention at a single, specific spot marked with warning signs (even if those are only painted stripes on the street) rather than along the whole length of the road. – O. R. Mapper Oct 15 '14 at 21:36
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    @KennyLJ O.R.Mapper's explanation is spot-on but it could also be forbidden to cross anywhere else so that marked crosswalks would create obligations for pedestrians, not for motorists. – Relaxed Oct 15 '14 at 23:06
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    I wonder if there is a general rule that makes it illegal to drive into pedestrians whatever the situation is. Of course being right isn't helpful when you end up in a hospital or a grave. – gnasher729 Oct 16 '14 at 11:02
  • @KennyLJ Having grown up in Michigan, you don't find those crosswalks very often. I found it very stupid moving about the country that any shmuck could stop traffic because they wanted to cross the street when there's a freaking stop light a few dozen yards away. – corsiKa Oct 16 '14 at 22:38

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