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Massachusetts Police Chief: Pedestrians DO NOT always have the right of way



Photo courtesy of Wrentham Police

Many people believe the pedestrian always has the right of way when crossing the street or crossing lanes of travel at shopping centers, office parks, etc. Well, they DO NOT.

No doubt, if the pedestrian is using the crosswalk, they have the right of way. That said, the safest way to use a crosswalk is to begin by showing “intent”. Showing intent includes looking both ways; making eye contact with drivers; perhaps waving a hand to get attention. Don’t simply trust drivers will see you. Catch their attention. Make sure they see you and they’re stopped before you walk.

In other instances, pedestrians should not assume they have the right of way. If there’s no crosswalk and you decide to cross the street, technically you’re jaywalking and that’s against the law in Massachusetts. In these cases, pedestrians should yield the right of way to motorists (and bicycles) and NOT expect traffic will stop for them. Again, YOU have to make sure YOU are safe in these cases.

It’s not unusual for police to receive complaints from pedestrians who believe they always have the right of way and want action taken against the motorist even when they weren’t using a crosswalk.

Shopping centers, like the Wrentham Outlets, are where many complaints arise. Shoppers constantly wander aimlessly into traffic, not using crosswalks, walking in the middle of the road, crossing diagonally instead of straight across, and expecting motorists to stomp on their brakes. When that doesn’t happen, they’re up in arms, but there not a lot we can do.

So, the takeaway here is use the crosswalk or use a lot of caution if there’s no crosswalk. Right or wrong, if you’re the pedestrian, you lose when a car hits you.

Finally, we have been and will continue to conduct crosswalk enforcement as often as possible.

Stay safe.

Wrentham Police Chief Bill McGrath

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ken Masson

    September 7, 2022 at 9:52 am

    I was taught in driving school In Massachusetts that pedestrians always have the right of way. I was taught that there was priority to pedestrians first, bicycle second and automobiles third in the order that came into existence. This doesn’t apply to limited access roadways like interstates.

    I was also taught that pedestrians need to step down off the curb into the crosswalk two signal intent to vehicles. Now I’m not sure who’s right!

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