Warm weather invites us to spend more time outside. Often, people will walk or run through their neighborhoods, especially beginning this time of year. Ohio has several laws that govern pedestrian traffic and how that traffic is to interact with motor vehicle traffic. Ohio’s laws do not prohibit additional local laws or ordinances regarding pedestrian traffic, and many Ohio communities have additional requirements for people who travel other than by motor vehicle.
Notably, Ohio’s laws on pedestrians generally treat people in wheelchairs the same as people who are traveling afoot. Electric or motorized wheelchairs are treated the same if the wheelchair is incapable of going over 8 mph.
Pedestrians must obey all pedestrian traffic-control signals. Pedestrian traffic-control signals include the electric instructions at some intersections that illuminate the words “walk” or “don’t walk.” Importantly, a flashing “don’t walk” signal means that it is improper to enter the intersection, but if a pedestrian is already in an intersection, the pedestrian is permitted to continue across the roadway. Interestingly, within crosswalks, pedestrians are required to at least try to walk within the right side of those crosswalks.
Pedestrians and cars sometimes get confused over how to handle pedestrians at intersections who are crossing in front of stopped vehicular traffic but who find vehicles from the intersecting road attempting to turn onto the road upon which the crosswalk is located. In these instances, vehicle drivers are to yield to pedestrians who are properly using the crosswalk.
If painted pedestrian crosswalks are marked on a roadway, pedestrians must only cross roadways upon those crosswalks. However, if a roadway does not have marked crosswalks, pedestrians are always required to yield to the vehicular traffic on the roadway upon which the pedestrian is traveling.
If a roadway has sidewalks adjacent to it, pedestrians are to use those sidewalks if the sidewalks are practically usable. For instance, sidewalk use is not required if the sidewalk is composed of significantly uneven concrete sections or is covered by bushes or tree limbs.
If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians are to walk on the left side of the road (facing vehicular traffic) and off the paved road surface (i.e on the shoulder) of the roadway, if possible. And, pedestrians are to walk as far from the paved road surface as possible.
Pedestrians walking on roadways without shoulders (or in northwest Ohio, when the roadway shoulder is literally a part of an adjacent drainage ditch) are to walk as far to the side of the road as possible, facing vehicular traffic. In these situations, like situations where pedestrians cross the road other than at crosswalks, pedestrians are to yield to all vehicular traffic.
Even though pedestrians on roadways (either along the roadways or crossing the roadways) outside of crosswalks must yield to motor vehicles using the roadways, motor vehicle operators do not have carte blanche rights when encountering pedestrians. Regardless of the context, motor vehicle drivers have a duty of reasonable care when encountering pedestrians within or outside of crosswalks.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.