A parent and child cautiously walk toward a crosswalk as a grey sedan drives toward them.

The Crosswalk Conundrum: Who Has the Right-of-Way?

As temperatures increase so does foot traffic throughout the State. While a boom in local tourism is great for Michigan’s economy, it also means more vehicles on already busy streets. This poses an increased hazard for pedestrians as drivers often ignore pedestrians at crosswalks.

Notably, pedestrian versus vehicle accidents are a serious issue in Michigan. According to the Michigan State Police, 80% of these accidents result in death or serious injury.[1]When these accidents occur, most drivers believe their responsibility was to only yield to the pedestrian. However, several cities are adopting crosswalk ordinances to prohibit drivers from speeding through crosswalks.

So, who has the right-of-way? Michigan law only dictates who has the right-of-way at traffic-signal intersections.[2]A pedestrian has the right-of-way at intersection crosswalks if there is a pedestrian-walk-sign and it is illuminated – period. If there is no pedestrian-signal, then the traffic signal controls who has the right-of-way. 

Yet, there is no universal law regarding who has the right-of-way for non-traffic-signal crosswalks. This is problematic because these crosswalks have sprung up everywhere in cities throughout the state and drivers are notorious for ignoring the patient pedestrian waiting to cross. Thus, several cities have approved ordinances outlining who has the right-of-way where these crosswalks are present. Traverse City and Ann Arbor, for example, give pedestrians within marked crosswalks the right-of-way and require drivers to yield to pedestrians in unmarked crosswalks.[3]This means, drivers must stop and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross a crosswalk in these cities.

Ignoring these ordinances could result in a civil infraction and be grounds for an injured pedestrian to bring civil suit. And, local law enforcement agencies are ensuring drivers abide by the ordinances. In September 2017, Ann Arbor police stopped 299 vehicles and issued 227 failure-to-yield tickets to drivers disobeying Ann Arbor’s crosswalk ordinance.[4]

Not all municipalities, however, have adopted ordinances. Where no ordinance exists, the Michigan State Police suggest that the municipality adopt the Uniform Traffic Code, which states that a driver must only yield to pedestrians preparing to cross a marked or unmarked crosswalk.[5] 

While there are groups advocating for a universal state law hoping it would reduce the number of pedestrian versus vehicle accidents, there is none yet. It is therefore important to know your rights as a pedestrian in case you are involved in an accident.

If you were injured in a pedestrian versus vehicle accident and would like more information regarding your rights to recovery, please contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Dingeman & Dancer, PLC, (231) 929-0500, 100 Park St., Traverse City, MI 49684.


By: Ashley Wahl

[1]Michigan State Police: Pedestrian Safety, https://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-1878_1711-13678–,00.html.

[2]See MCL § 257.613; MCL§ 257.612.

[3]Traverse City, MI, Municipal Code § 410.03; Ann Arbor, MI, Municipal Code § 10:148. 

[4]Lindsay Knake, Ann Arbor Police Ticket 227 Motorists in Latest Crosswalk Enforcement, MLive (Sept. 20, 2017), https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2017/09/ann_arbor_police_ticket_227_in.html.

[5]Mich. Uniform Traffic Code R. 28.1438.