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The Rights and Responsibilities of Pedestrians, Bicyclists, and Drivers in Georgia

Both pedestrians and drivers have rights and responsibilities in the state of Georgia. Who has the right of way can often depend on the facts of a given situation. Consequently, it is important to understand what circumstances create an obligation or a right of way. In Georgia, the traffic laws apply not only on the roadways, but also at shopping centers, other parking lots, and other areas that are commonly used by the public. Every year, more than 100,000 people are injured in car accidents in Georgia.

Complying With Law Enforcement

As a preliminary matter, regardless of what the general traffic laws are in any given situation, both drivers and pedestrians are required to comply with lawful orders or directions given by a police officer – even if the order is inconsistent with a general rule of law.

Responsibilities of Drivers


  • Insurance. Both owners and operators of motor vehicles are required to maintain motor vehicle liability insurance coverage. Similarly, motorcycle owners are required to maintain insurance. Proof of insurance should be carried by the driver or stored somewhere on the motorcycle.


  • Conduct at Traffic Lights. Drivers are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians in the crosswalk. Additionally, if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk on the other half of the roadway, but is approaching the driver’s half of the roadway, the driver is still expected to remain stationary until the pedestrian has crossed the road. Drivers are allowed to proceed through an intersection on a yellow arrow. In the state of Georgia, drivers are allowed to turn right at a red light after coming to a complete stop. The exception to this is when there is signage posted prohibiting a right turn on red. Drivers are still expected to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.


  • Yield to bicyclists. When there is a bicycle lane in the road, drivers of cars are supposed to yield to bicyclists within the bicycle lane. When passing a bicyclist, drivers are to maintain a “safe distance” between the car and the bicyclist. A “safe distance” is defined by Georgia law as not less than three feet.


  • Conduct When Pedestrians Are in, or Approaching, a Crosswalk. Drivers are supposed to stop their car, and remain stopped, to allow pedestrians to cross at a crosswalk. If the pedestrian is approaching from the opposite side of the street, drivers are similarly expected to stop their vehicle and remain stopped while the pedestrian crosses the street.

Drivers approaching a stopped vehicle from behind, where the stopped vehicle is allowing a pedestrian to cross, are not supposed to pass the stopped vehicle, but rather, also come to a complete stop.

Drivers are required to yield the right of way to blind pedestrians who have a cane or a guide dog.


  • Due Care. At all times when driving, drivers are expected to “exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.”  Additionally, drivers are expected to use their horn to provide warning when necessary. Finally, when observing children, people who are obviously drunk, confused, or incapacitated, drivers are expected to exercise proper precautions.

Responsibilities of Pedestrians

Pedestrians are defined in the state of Georgia as “any person afoot” and includes people engaged in the following conduct:

  • Walking;
  • Running;
  • Jogging;
  • Otherwise on foot.


  • Conduct at Traffic Lights. Pedestrians are allowed to cross the street on a green light within a marked or unmarked crosswalk. However, if the light is green but the “do not walk” signal has activated, the pedestrian should not start crossing the street. Additionally, pedestrians are not supposed to cross the road on a yellow light.


  • Conduct When Approaching a Crosswalk. Even though, as a general rule, pedestrians have the right of way within a crosswalk, this is not true in every case. Pedestrians are cautioned not to leave the curb or another place of safety suddenly. Pedestrians are further instructed under Georgia law not to walk or run in front of the path of a vehicle when the car is so close that “it is impractical for the driver to yield.”


  • When Crossing the Street Outside of a Crosswalk. Crosswalks exist at the corners of each block, whether they are marked or not. If a pedestrian crosses the road away from the corner, unless it is clearly marked, it is not a crosswalk. When pedestrians are crossing in such a fashion, they do not have the right of way. Rather, pedestrians must yield to vehicles in this situation.

If there is a pedestrian tunnel or an overhead crossing designed for pedestrians, and a pedestrian chooses to cross the roadway instead, the pedestrian similarly does not have the right of way and is expected to yield to traffic.

If there are traffic lights at adjacent intersections, pedestrians are not allowed to cross the road, except at the traffic lights.

Unless there is a traffic light specifically allowing it, pedestrians are not allowed to cross an intersection diagonally.


  • Walking While Under The Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. If a person is impaired to the extent they are a hazard should not be on a roadway or the shoulder of the road, whether they are walking or remaining still.


  • Walking Along the Road. Pedestrians are required to use the sidewalk if one is available, unless using the sidewalk “presents an imminent threat of bodily injury.”

If there is no sidewalk but a shoulder is available, pedestrians are expected to use the shoulder as far away from the roadway as is practicable.

If there is no sidewalk and no shoulder, pedestrians are expected to remain as far away from the road as possible. Additionally, when there is no sidewalk and no shoulder, pedestrians are expected to walk on the left side of the road.

Joint Responsibilities

Neither pedestrians nor drivers are allowed to cross over a railway crossing after the signal has been given not to cross. Similarly, neither pedestrians nor drivers are permitted to remain on or enter a bridge after the bridge operation signal has been given.

Both pedestrians and drivers are also expected to yield to emergency vehicles.

If You Have Been Injured As a Pedestrian

If you have been injured as a pedestrian, you may be entitled to damages. Contact the determined auto accident injury attorneys in Atlanta at the Bader Law Office, LLC for a free consultation.

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Seth Bader
(678) 562-5595