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Why is failure to yield so important in pedestrian accidents?

Photo of Christopher Seleski

Did you know that it is a misdemeanor crime in New York City to endanger pedestrians by failing to yield? This charge is most often brought against those who cause NYC pedestrian accidents that result in injury or death. However, failure to yield is an ongoing problem in the metro area. Privately operated vehicles pose a significant threat, but bus drivers are also a danger. Public transit operators are responsible for a fair percentage of pedestrian accidents in the city. All drivers should be held to the same standard when it comes to failure to yield enforcement.

What is the definition of “right of way” in the context of failure to yield? This term simply means that drivers are required to take adequate care to protect pedestrians and cyclists who are using public streets. Pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks, while crossing the street using lighted signals and when a cyclist is using a road lane.

What happens when a driver is cited? Many drivers receive citations for failure to yield when there is an injury or fatality associated with the pedestrian accident. In theory, officers are permitted to cite anyone who is endangering the welfare of a pedestrian, but enforcement continues to be spotty at best. Drivers who are cited for failure to yield are generally arrested on the scene and receive a Desk Appearance Ticket. In some cases, drivers receive subsequent charges after the incident, though they were not arrested.

Does the driver have to intentionally harm a pedestrian to be cited? No, a driver can simply be deemed negligent. That means that the driver did not observe standard traffic practice — his or her action was not malicious, but it was irresponsible.

More than 15,000 pedestrians and cyclists are injured every year in New York City. Drivers must be held accountable for their failure to yield. In addition to city penalties, these drivers should be responsible for compensating their victims for medical costs and other damages.

Source: Transportation Alternatives, “The New York City Right of Way Law,” Transportation Alternatives, accessed July 13, 2015


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