Pedestrian Safety

Roadmap To Pedestrian Safety

May 30, 2024

Winter is gone and the sidewalks and streets are once again bustling with people enjoying the warmer weather. I’ve been running the sidewalks training for a local half marathon. This has given me time and a greater opportunity to observe the delicate balance between cars and people as well as how often pedestrian safety is in jeopardy. Nationwide, nearly 8,000 pedestrians lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2021, translating to approximately one death every 66 minutes. In 2022 in North Dakota, one pedestrian was involved in a crash every 6 ½ days. Pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers who are in proximity should be cautious and aware of the laws established to maintain safety. This is especially true for North Dakota drivers and foot travelers as we  are not accustomed to sharing space every month of the year.

Know The Law

North Dakota Century Code Chapter 39-10 explains the rights and rules put in place to prevent these accidents. Better-known takeaways pedestrians should follow include: 1) “Pedestrians are subject to traffic-control and pedestrian-control signals,” and 2) “Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.” Conversely if a pedestrian signal exists the pedestrian has the right-of-way. Lesser-known laws include: 1) “Where a sidewalk is provided and use is practicable, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway,” and 2) “No pedestrian may cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic-control devices.” This is also known as “jaywalking” which originated in Kansas City in 1906 from the word “jay,” which referred to an uninformed or rude person. Initially, “jay” was used to criticize those who lacked proper sidewalk manners, but as automobiles became more common, the term evolved to describe people who crossed streets improperly. What if there is no sidewalk? North Dakota law states pedestrians should walk as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway, and, if on a two-way roadway, shall walk only on the left side of the roadway.

By the same token, drivers need to know the rules of the road to keep pedestrians safe. The aforementioned North Dakota Century Code Chapter provides guidance. I have highlighted a few points as follows:

  • Watch for traffic-control signals, for instance when turning right on a red light after stopping, such traffic must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk.
  • Yield the right of way to any authorized vehicle or pedestrian actually engaged in work upon a highway within any highway construction or maintenance area indicated by official traffic-control devices.
  • Stop a vehicle immediately prior to driving onto a sidewalk or onto the sidewalk area extending across such alley, building entrance, road, or driveway when emerging from an alley, driveway, private road, or building within a business or residence district.
  • Exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian and give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person

Liability And Legal Consequences

If a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, the primary legal claim is typically against the driver’s insurer. The victim may receive compensation for medical expenses (including no-fault coverage), lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. In some cases, pedestrians can be found to share fault for a crash, which may affect the compensation they receive under comparative fault laws of North Dakota.

Drivers who strike pedestrians can face criminal consequences, including incarceration, probation, restitution, driver’s license suspension and fines. Civil penalties include liability for damages since drivers have a duty to use reasonable care to avoid injuring pedestrians.


When pedestrian/motorist accidents occur, attorneys experienced in personal injury cases play a crucial role in determining liability. If you have been involved in a crash, it’s essential to understand your legal rights and options. If you or someone you know has been injured, please don’t hesitate to contact the personal injury team at SW&L Attorneys by calling 701-297-2890, or emailing us at: Our professionals can give you important information and analysis regarding your next steps.

If you have been involved in a crash and are facing criminal penalties, please contact our criminal defense team at SW&L Attorneys.

The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. Do not rely on the information on this website as legal advice. Please refer to the full disclaimer here.