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Jaywalkers Need to Know These Michigan Pedestrian Laws Before Stepping off the Curb

Jaywalkers Need to Know These Michigan Pedestrian Laws Before Stepping off the Curb

Jaywalking — the commonly used term for crossing streets outside of designated crosswalks — is a confusing topic for pedestrians, drivers, and even police officers. In fact, laws regarding the right-of-way for people traveling on foot are so often misunderstood that the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning recently issued a document titled Michigan Pedestrian Laws “Guide for Law Enforcement Officers” to clarify how they should approach accidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians.

Is Jaywalking Illegal in Michigan?

The state’s pedestrian law enforcement guide makes clear two important points. First, pedestrians shouldn’t enter crosswalks when the “Don’t Walk” signal is either flashing or steadily lit; however, if a pedestrian is already walking across an intersection when that signal activates, they legally retain the right-of-way and should finish crossing the roadway. Second, drivers must yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks — regardless of whether the traffic lights facing their cars are red, yellow, or green — until any pedestrians (or bicyclists) have cleared the intersection.

That’s all well and good… but what about the brazen folks who simply decide not to cross at marked intersections, those irritating, irresponsible jaywalkers? Sometimes these offenders seem to appear out of nowhere, even darting onto roads from between parked cars. Aren’t there laws against this sort of misbehavior?

On the other side of the coin, you may be wondering about all those intersections that don’t have designated crosswalks?  Or what happens if a “Walk-Don’t Walk” signal is not present at a given intersection? After all, some places are less developed than others, and many areas just don’t need sophisticated pedestrian traffic control systems in place.

It’s perhaps due to these contrasting circumstances that Michigan has no statewide law prohibiting jaywalking. Instead, the state leaves it up to local jurisdictions to decide whether to enact and enforce jaywalking ordinances; as a result, laws (and their enforcement) vary widely across our pleasant peninsulas. Simply put — it’s important to know that pedestrians (especially jaywalkers) don’t always have the legal right of way in cities across Michigan.

In Detroit, for example, jaywalking is better known as “pedestrian interference with traffic,” a misdemeanor which can result in a fine of $105. Over in Warren, the penalty for jaywalking is an even heftier $140. In contrast, Ann Arbor has a two-pronged approach which sets fines at $140 for drivers who disobey the city’s pedestrian safety ordinances, and has a potential $130 fine in place for pedestrians who fail to yield to motor vehicles when “crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.” Some cities even take it a step further. This August, Hamtramck city police officers went so far as to arrest people after they were seen jaywalking. Police departments in Kalamazoo and Lansing have also been known to crack down on jaywalkers due to high numbers of pedestrian crashes. But elsewhere in Michigan, many so-called jaywalkers cheerfully parade across intersections and streets in cities where jaywalking isn’t considered a problem at all.

So, what’s a rule-following pedestrian (or a careless jaywalker) to do? Because Michigan jaywalking laws are so varied, our best advice is to check with local law enforcement to see what, if any, ordinances are in place. But there is one thing that everyone must know: as we’ve noted on our pedestrian traffic laws page, Michigan pedestrians statewide are required to yield to vehicles when crossing outside of marked crosswalks. And we’d also add that, as a pedestrian, even if you feel you clearly have the right-of-way to cross a road within a marked crosswalk, you’d be unwise to depend on a moving vehicle stopping in time to avoid hitting you. That’s particularly true in Southeast Michigan, where a Click on Detroit article noted that Detroit has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths among American cities over 100,000 in population.

So, How Do I Stay Safe While Walking (or Jaywalking) in Michigan?

The best answer to the first part of that question is to use sidewalks and crosswalks whenever possible.  In suburban and rural areas where sidewalks are not available, Michigan law requires pedestrians to walk on the side of the roadway facing oncoming traffic. That makes sense, since it permits you to see approaching traffic and may give you enough time to get out of the path of a fast-moving vehicle.  For more insight on safe walking practices, the Detroit Greenways Coalition offers a quick outline of the state’s rules for walkers. Likewise, the Secretary of State has also compiled some handy traffic safety tips for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists to help us all avoid dangerous situations.

To answer the second part of the question, we can only say that the expert, personal injury attorneys at Mike Morse Injury Law Firm don’t recommend jaywalking at all, for numerous reasons. Depending on your location, it could be illegal. And wherever you happen to be, it’s dangerous. However, if you don’t like Michigan’s undefined jaywalking policies, consider the situation in China for some perspective —the government is said to be using security cameras to publicly post pictures of jaywalkers in the hopes of shaming them into safely and legally crossing streets!

We’re Always Looking Out for Michigan Accident Victims

But what happens if you do everything right and still find yourself the victim of a pedestrian accident?  As expert pedestrian accident lawyers, we’re here to help. At Mike Morse Law Firm, we’ve also compiled our own quick outline of traffic laws that impact Michigan walkers. Furthermore, we’re highly knowledgeable when it comes to recent changes in the state’s no-fault insurance laws and how they may impact you — whether you’re walking, bicycling, or driving. If you are injured on a Michigan road, give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946), or contact us here.