In North Carolina, Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

In North Carolina, Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

Thousands of pedestrians, unfortunately, get injured annually in North Carolina because of negligent drivers. Under North Carolina law, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections. However, they are also required to follow specific traffic laws too. Some of the NC pedestrian traffic rules are as follows.

Intersections with traffic signals

When traffic signals are available, pedestrians must follow the same signals that automobile drivers are using when they are travelling in the same direction. Therefore, they must avoid crossing when there is a red light or enter a crosswalk when there is a yellow signal. They need to wait for the green signals to start walking, and they have the right of way when they are crossing a green signal. In addition, drivers must allow pedestrians to cross the intersection safely if the green traffic signal changes to red or yellow mid-way.

Intersections without traffic signals

If there are no traffic signals, then drivers are required to give pedestrians the right of way when they are walking on marked or unmarked crosswalks. Therefore, people who are walking have the right of way over all cars if they are on unmarked or marked crosswalks. For example, when a sidewalk finishes on either side of an intersection but there isn’t any marking that indicates a crosswalk, then it is ‘implied’ and they have the right of way. In addition, drivers must allow them to use the crosswalks.

Crossing highways

Pedestrians are not allowed to go across specific roadways like interstate highways unless there is an emergency. Therefore, drivers are the ones that have the power on all the highways in NC. Any accidents that involve a pedestrian getting hurt on the highway is at the fault of the pedestrian. They should not be walking around on the highway in the first place.

Blind Pedestrians

Blind people who are walking always have the right of way. You can tell that a person who is walking is blind if he or she has a red-tipped white cane or a guide dog. Make sure to pay attention to where they are walking. Even if you have a green light to turn right, always check to see who is trying to cross.

Emergency vehicles

Fire engines, police cars, rescue vehicles and ambulances have the right of way if their lights are flashing, and their sirens are sounding. In such situations, you are required to yield the right of way, regardless of the direction the emergency vehicle wants to take.

Must pedestrians use sidewalks in NC?

Pedestrians must use sidewalks if they are available. However, if there is no sidewalk, they are required to use the left side of the road while facing oncoming traffic. If they violate traffic rules or fail to act in a careful manner, they can be held responsible for accidents and may not receive any compensation. This is because NC follows a contributory negligence doctrine, which states that if someone is partially at fault, they will not receive any compensation for their accident. If you have sustained injuries as a result, you should contact a pedestrian accident lawyer in North Carolina who can assist you to gain financial compensation.


Pedestrians should follow safety tips like obeying all traffic signals, walking in well-lit areas, looking for vehicles before crossing streets and keeping an eye on vehicles that are backing out of parking zones. In addition, they should always walk facing the traffic or use a sidewalk. While it is important for drivers to pay attention to where they are heading, pedestrians need to do the same. That way if both parties follow the rules, everyone is safe.