If you’re a driver, you’ve heard of the right-of-way. This guideline helps set the rules for who can use a street and when. Right-of-way laws help keep our roads orderly and safe.
Here’s the issue: not everyone understands right-of-way rules. Sometimes, preventable accidents happen just because someone doesn’t know who should have the right-of-way. This post will help serve as a refresher on the right-of-way in Florida.
What Is Right-of-Way?
Right-of-way refers to a pedestrian’s (or driver’s) legal right to proceed before others with precedence. If you have the right-of-way, you are legally allowed to move forward and use the road before someone else.
Who Has the Right-of-Way in Florida?
Nobody automatically has the right-of-way in Florida. There are very wide-reaching laws that are designed to protect everyone on the road—drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, etc. These laws outline that everyone must do their best to avoid accidents.
The Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law governs traffic rules within Florida. The law never once assigns right-of-way to someone. Instead, it details who needs to yield the right-of-way to others.
There are plenty of scenarios where someone may have the right-of-way, but it’s too dangerous to exercise that right.
Here’s an example:
- Several drivers come to a four-way stop, but you arrive at the stop first
- According to Florida law, the drivers should yield you the right-of-way
- A pedestrian suddenly decides to cross the street right in front of you
- You cannot simply push forward and strike the pedestrian just because “you have the right-of-way”
Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right-of-Way in Florida?
Actually, no. Pedestrians do not always have the right-of-way in Florida. There are certain situations where pedestrians are expected to yield the right-of-way to vehicles.
With that said, there’s another rule that precedes Florida’s right-of-way laws. Florida Statutes Section 316.130(15) states that all vehicle drivers must exercise due care when it comes to pedestrians (and people in human-powered vehicles). That means that every driver is expected to ensure a safe environment for pedestrians—and that comes before anyone worries about right-of-way.
So, even if a pedestrian is breaking right-of-way rules, a driver would be expected to yield to them and create a safe environment for them.
- There is an exception! Visually impaired pedestrians carrying a white cane or guided by a guide dog have the absolute right-of-way; vehicles should always stop completely to avoid injuring these pedestrians
Rules for Pedestrians and Bicyclists in Florida
Just because vehicle operators are expected to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and bicyclists, it doesn’t mean that there are no rules for the latter to follow. Bicyclists and pedestrians are expected to obey traffic laws just like people in cars. There are lots of rules that you’re expected to follow if you’re on foot or a bike.
- You must travel in the same direction as traffic
- You must stop before reaching the crosswalk if there is a red light
- You must yield the right-of-way to vehicles that are at green lights
- You must exercise reasonable control and judgment if you are crossing at a location with no traffic device or demarcation
Drivers must know about these rules, too. It makes it easier to understand what could happen in certain situations on the road. The more you know about how pedestrians and bicyclists should act, the better prepared you’ll be to share the road with them.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pedestrian Accidents in Florida
Are pedestrians required to obey general traffic laws?
Yes. Pedestrians are required to obey general traffic laws. In fact, plenty of rules and laws govern pedestrians.
- Pedestrians must obey traffic devices applicable to pedestrians
- Pedestrians must not walk on roads paved for vehicular traffic
- Pedestrians cannot stand on segments of roadway intended for regular traffic to solicit a ride
Who is most likely to be involved in a pedestrian accident?
Two groups of people who are most likely to be hurt in a pedestrian accident are small children and the elderly. Many elderly people choose to walk to get their errands done—as opposed to driving—and this puts them at a heightened risk of experiencing a pedestrian accident. Older people usually have slower reaction times than their younger counterparts and may not avoid an accident in time.
Children are less likely to obey road rules and can be easily hurt in pedestrian accidents, too. Younger children have minimal or no understanding of road rules, how vehicles work, or why crashes happen—they’re at risk of being involved in accidents. Even the most cautious driver may strike a child who darts out into the road with no warning.
Why do so many pedestrian accidents happen in Florida?
Here in Florida, there are hundreds of pedestrian accidents that take place every day. The reason why pedestrian accidents are so common here is the same reason why so many people flock to Florida—we have great weather and lots of outdoor activities to keep everyone busy.
Even though bad weather is usually a contributing factor in crashes, good weather can present a risk too: lots of people out and about. People love to walk around in the Florida sunshine and engage in all sorts of activities outdoors; and when they do, they’re at risk of being struck by a vehicle.
Florida also has a very high number of tourists visiting at any given time. The less familiar someone is with the roadways they’re on, the less likely they are to remember to follow the proper rules. Pedestrians may pose more of an accident risk when they’re tourists.
Are there ways to avoid pedestrian accidents?
Lots of pedestrian accidents occur because of the inattentiveness of drivers; so, one of the best ways to avoid pedestrian accidents is to drive safely near people walking on the road. Drivers should be aware of the rules that dictate who has right-of-way (and when) when they’re on the road.
If you’re ever in doubt when you’re driving, just stop and avoid hurting a pedestrian no matter whose “turn” it is to be in the road.
- Slow down in areas with pedestrians
- Be patient with seniors and anyone who has a challenge walking quickly
- Try to make eye contact
- Take the weather into account
- If the car in front of you stops, don’t assume it’s “for no reason” and try to move ahead
What if pedestrians “jaywalk” in Florida?
The term “jaywalk” doesn’t exist anywhere in Florida law. Even though jaywalking is commonly seen as illegal, crossing mid-block (or somewhere without a crosswalk or signal) is generally legal. Pedestrians who cross mid-block still have the right-of-way when they are on the road.
Yielding the Right-of-Way in Florida
Signs and Crosswalks
The road is full of signals and signs that tell drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and anyone else out and about what to do. Drivers need to stop and yield the right-of-way to cyclists and pedestrians who are using crosswalks.
When vehicles come to a red light in Florida, they are expected to come to a complete stop at the stop line. Never block pedestrian crossings or begin to move forward until the light turns green. You are allowed to make right turns on red (unless there’s a sign saying otherwise), but it’s crucial to look out for pedestrians who may have the right-of-way while your light is red.
A green light means you are free to proceed through the intersection. With that said, drivers have to yield the right-of-way to cars and pedestrians already in an intersection when a light turns green.
Turn arrows. Turn arrows at intersections have the same basic meaning as standard traffic lights—they’re just turn-specific!
Traffic turn arrows dictate right-of-way:
- Green arrow: You have the right-of-way; proceed with caution
- Yellow arrow: The arrow will turn red soon; stop if possible
- Red arrow: Do not turn; you do not have the right-of-way
- Blinking yellow arrow: Oncoming traffic has a green light and has the right-of-way; you are still allowed to turn anyway, but need to wait for a break in oncoming traffic
At intersections with stop signs, drivers must come to a complete stop at the stop line marked on the pavement.
If there is no line, it’s important to stop before entering the intersection.
- At four-way stops: The car who came to a stop first moves into the intersection first; if two cars next to each other stop at the same time, the car on the right goes first and the car on the left yields right-of-way
Things get more complicated if the cars are straight ahead of each other. This is one reason why using signals is so important.
If both cars intend to go straight, they can both proceed; if the cars are turning left and right, respectively, they can also both proceed at once.
- Cars turning right have the right-of-way over cars turning left
- Cars going straight have the right-of-way over cars turning left
At two-way stops, drivers must yield the right-of-way to people in lanes without a stop sign.
If somebody is in a driveway and wants to enter traffic, everyone on the road has the right-of-way over them. You have to yield to vehicles that are already on the road if you want to enter a roadway. Even pedestrians and bicyclists nearby have the right-of-way in this situation.
You can think of a roundabout as a circular intersection with no traffic signals.
According to right-of-way laws, all traffic needs to travel through roundabouts in a counterclockwise circle.
- It’s important to yield to vehicles already in the roundabout
- You cannot stop or change lanes in a roundabout
- Lots of roundabouts have four-way yield signs; this just means that right-of-way at the roundabout should be treated similarly to at a four-way stop
On the Highway
Florida’s right-of-way laws state that you need to signal before changing lanes on the highway, but you’re allowed to pass other vehicles on both the right and the left. Another key part of having right-of-way is not moving in a way that impedes other cars. You should also turn your signal on when you plan to merge to the highway and yield the right-of-way to vehicles already traveling on the highway.
Do pedestrians ever have to yield to cars in Florida?
Yes. There are certain circumstances where pedestrians are expected to yield the right-of-way to cars in Florida.
- Suddenly leaping out into the road
- Crossing a roadway somewhere where there is a tunnel or overhead walkway for pedestrian use
- Crossing a roadway at a point other than a crosswalk (unless the pedestrian already entered the roadway under safe conditions)
What Should I Do if I’m in an Accident?
If you’re involved in a car accident, it’s important to take the proper steps to protect your physical and legal health. The first thing that you should do is ensure your own safety by moving out of the way of oncoming vehicles. You should also check to make sure that everyone else involved in the accident is safe.
Call 911: The operator will send out the proper authorities and medical response team.
- Swap information: If you and other people hurt in the accident are okay, try to exchange identifying information with them. This includes name, driver’s license, insurance information, and so on.
- Take photos of evidence: Take pictures of the crash scene and your injuries; make sure you fill out a police report with an officer so that it can be used as evidence later.
- Seek medical care: You should visit your doctor regardless of whether you were treated at the hospital following your accident; either way, your doctor should be kept up-to-date on your physical health.
- Consult a qualified pedestrian injury attorney: A qualified pedestrian accident lawyer can help you determine your rights and fight for compensation in court (if it’s available).