Jaywalking Grandma


Did the Reindeer Have the Right of Way?

Over the holidays, I’m sure you heard about the tragedy when Grandma got run over by a reindeer. Since Grandma was a pedestrian, didn’t she have the right of way?

Well the facts surrounding her demise are sparse, but we can make some inferences to determine who had the right of way. Also, we’ll discuss how you can remain safe as a pedestrian and know the laws as a driver.

Pedestrians Have Few Right of Ways

Believe it or not, and despite what you may have been told by your driver’s ed teacher, pedestrians do not always have the right of way. In fact, as a pedestrian, you have few right of ways.

Crosswalk with Signal

Let’s look at Grandma, and let’s presume that Santa’s sleigh counts as a vehicle on the road. If she was crossing the street in a crosswalk with a control signal (Walk/Wait/Don’t Walk) then she would have had the right of way if she started walking when the Walk signal was on.

However, it would have been illegal for her to begin to cross the street while the Wait or Don’t Walk signal was displayed. If she crossed illegally, then Grandma didn’t have the right of way.

—See Tex. Trans. Code § 522.002

Crosswalk with No Signal

If Grandma was crossing the street in a crosswalk with no signal, then any vehicle, including Santa in his sleigh, had to yield the right of way to her as she crossed into his lane. However, if Grandma suddenly stepped off the curb and in the path of Santa’s sleigh making it impossible for Santa to yield the right of way, then she couldn’t claim the right of way.

Also, did you know that it is illegal to pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk allowing a pedestrian to cross?

—See Tex. Trans. Code § 522.003

Leaving an Alley

A driver leaving an alley, roadway, building, or private road/driveway must yield the right of way to pedestrians that are travelling on a sidewalk that extends across the alley, driveway, etc.

—See Tex. Trans. Code § 522.006(c)

How to Cross Street Without Crosswalk

First off, it is illegal to cross outside of a crosswalk between adjacent intersections where traffic control devices are in operation. Otherwise, a pedestrian crossing outside of a crosswalk must yield the right of way to vehicles on the roadway.

—See Tex. Trans. Code § 522.005

Beware though, cities are allowed to enact their own ordinances that prohibit pedestrians from crossing a roadway in a business district, or a designated highway, except in a crosswalk.

—See Tex. Trans. Code § 522.009

Duty to Use Sidewalk or Walk Against Traffic

Let’s imagine for a moment that Grandma wasn’t run over while crossing the street, but instead was simply walking down the road.

Well, if a sidewalk was available and accessible, then Grandma wouldn’t have been allowed to walk along and on the roadway.

However, if a sidewalk wasn’t available and accessible, then Grandma should have been walking down the left side of the road, or on the shoulder of the road, facing oncoming traffic.

—See Tex. Trans. Code § 522.006

As you well know, when Grandma was found on Christmas morning, there were hoof prints on her forehead, and incriminating Claus marks on her back. (whatever that means) I proffer that the hoof prints on her forehead are proof that she was walking against traffic like she was supposed to, which tends to show that Santa may have been negligent.

Does This Mean Santa Can Run Down Pedestrians?

In short, no. Even if she didn’t have the right of way, this doesn’t give Santa free reign to run down your Grandma.

Drivers on the road, even fat men in red suits, must exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian on a roadway and must give warning by sounding the horn when necessary. Additionally, drivers must exercise proper precaution on observing a child or an obviously confused or incapacitated person on a roadway.

—See Tex. Trans. Code § 522.008

Why is that last part important? Well if you will recall, Grandma had been drinking too much eggnog, and forgotten her medication before she stumbled out into the snow. Therefore, even if Grandma failed to yield the right of way, Santa had a duty to exercise proper precaution.

By the way, have you ever heard of a horn on Santa’s sleigh? Could he have been negligent for failure to use a horn to warn Grandma?

–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,

 Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Criminal Law Division

1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309

Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479

[email protected]