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Pedestrian Safety

Image of traffic control device depicting walk symbol with text reading Be Safe PA. Use crosswalks and obey traffic control devices. Drive Safe. Walk Safe.

Whether you’re walking or driving, share equal respect. Safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you know the laws and follow the safety tips, you can drive safe and walk safe.

General Pedestrian Law

Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code details the rights and duties of pedestrians.

Generally, people walking may cross the street at any point, but pedestrians and motorists must understand their responsibilities. Below are the basic laws to follow when crossing the street or driving.

  • When a pedestrian crosses the street in a crosswalk, the driver must yield.
    • Drivers are not required to yield until you begin to step into the crosswalk.
    • Pedestrians should not walk or run unexpectedly into the path of a moving vehicle. Pedestrians should not assume drivers will see or yield. Look left, right, and left again before stepping out.
    • It is illegal for drivers to pass a vehicle that is stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, as the second driver may not see the pedestrian in the crosswalk.
  • If a pedestrian crosses the street not at an intersection and there is no crosswalk, the pedestrian must yield to vehicles.
  • When crossing the street at a signalized intersection, both pedestrians and motorists must obey the traffic-control devices.
    • These signs and signals help identify who must yield.
  • When walking along a road with sidewalks and its use is practicable, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway.

Safety Tips

Tips for Pedestrians

  • Cross only at crosswalks. Don’t cross between parked cars.
  • Look left, right then left again and keep looking.
  • Wait for a gap in traffic, then step one foot off the curb or fully enter crosswalk and make eye contact with approaching drivers.
  • Always obey traffic signs and signals especially pedestrian count down timers.
  • See and be seen – drivers need to see you to avoid you. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or carry a flashlight at night.
  • Watch for turning vehicles at intersections, even if you have the right-of-way and proceeding lawfully.
  • Watch your children. Children can’t judge a vehicle’s speed and distance and need the help of an adult to be safe.
  • On streets with multiple lanes in each direction, be aware of what drivers in both near lanes are doing. If one driver is allowing you to cross, the other might not see you.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk as far on the side of the road as you can, and always walk against traffic. 
  • Always be aware of your surrounding, and never get distracted.

Tips for Motorists

  • Slow down when approaching a crosswalk or intersection. Watch for pedestrians and be prepared to yield to them.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks – the law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks at signalized and non-signalized intersections.
  • Travel at a prudent speed. Don’t try to beat the light.
  • Watch for mid-block crosswalks. Pedestrians have the right-of-way in mid-block crosswalks, so yield to them.
  • Expect the unexpected – look out for children who may dart out between cars or buses or cross mid-block without a crosswalk.
  • Drivers on streets with multiple lanes in each direction should be aware that pedestrians may be crossing all lanes.

Walk to School Month

National Walk to School Month is celebrated during October, and the first Wednesday of October is Walk to School Day. There are numerous organizations that provide communities with ideas for encouraging walking and bicycling to school, as well as increasing safety for students who walk or bike.

Consider visiting the Pennsylvania Safe Routes to School page for more information on how you can get involved. Also check out how some communities have established a walking school bus.

Walk to School Day is an internationally recognized day that celebrates the benefits of walking by encouraging children to walk and bicycle to school. Held annually in October, the event is designated as Walk or Roll to School Day in Pennsylvania. By promoting walking and bicycling on a designated day and generating enthusiasm for the event, Walk or Roll to School Day promoters hope to draw attention to the need for safe routes to school and to encourage children to make walking and bicycling to school a regular activity.

Walk or Roll to School Day is not a one-size-fits-all event. Communities throughout Pennsylvania, the nation, and even the world, have found their own unique ways to celebrate the day.