Is Jaywalking Legal in Missouri?
Ryan Bradley | June 20, 2022 | Missouri Law
Missouri laws are fairly generous when it comes to pedestrians crossing roads. Pedestrians are permitted to cross most public roads at almost any point, as long as they yield the right-of-way to oncoming vehicles. While some roads and areas have stricter regulations, jaywalking is by default legal in the state.
A crosswalk is a marked point at which a pedestrian can cross the street.
When there are no lines painted on the road or other indications of a crosswalk, the intersection is considered an unmarked crosswalk. If there are no traffic signals to indicate right-of-way, drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians that are already on the road or are clearly about to enter the road.
However, there is an exception where the pedestrian must give the right-of-way. If entering the road suddenly would make it impossible for a driver to stop in time to avoid a collision, the pedestrian must yield the right-of-way.
The other type of crosswalk is a marked crosswalk. These are most often marked with white paint but can be marked in other ways as well. Most marked crosswalks have traffic control signals that must be followed equally by both vehicles and pedestrians. But if they are not operable, the rules of unmarked crosswalks take effect.
Finally, some roads in Missouri have either pedestrian tunnels or pedestrian overwalks. Right-of-way laws don’t apply to these because vehicles and pedestrians can’t interact when a pedestrian is crossing using one of these types of crosswalks.
If a pedestrian chooses to ignore the tunnel or overwalk and cross at a different location, the crossing is not treated as a crosswalk. Thus, pedestrians must use caution and give the right-of-way to all vehicles on the road.
All other crossings are what is colloquially considered jaywalking. However, no such term exists in Missouri law. In Missouri, this is just considered crossing a road at a location other than a crosswalk. As long as the pedestrian gives right-of-way to all vehicles on the road, this is generally legal, barring an exception.
Obey Signs and Instructions
As is often the case in the legal context, the specific overrides the general. When there are signs that explicitly restrict crossing or when an authorized individual is directing traffic, you are required to obey those signs or instructions.
Failure to obey may result in you being ticketed by a police officer who observes your behavior. It can also make you liable for a pedestrian accident if one occurs.
Statutory Exceptions to Jaywalking in Missouri
Even though it is generally allowed in Missouri, there are a few exceptions published in the law that state where you cannot jaywalk. These are:
- Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation
- In business districts
- In a street designated by ordinance
- Diagonally, unless the traffic control devices allow for it
To be clear, the above are instances where you can only cross the street at a crosswalk.
Dangers of Jaywalking
The consequences of jaywalking are potentially serious. If a police officer witnesses you illegally crossing a road, they can give you a ticket. They can even potentially detain you if your actions are causing an ongoing danger for others. But getting ticketed is easily the least worrying danger.
The bigger danger is that jaywalking will result in an accident. By failing to give right-of-way to an oncoming vehicle when it is required, you are significantly increasing the likelihood of being struck by that car. And since you were the one disobeying the law, you would be liable for the accident.
While drivers are required to do whatever they safely can to avoid an accident, there is only so much a driver can do when you choose to violate laws designed to keep you safe.
Unless there are no crosswalks available, the best way to avoid getting into preventable accidents is to always cross Missouri roads at a crosswalk, preferably one with a working traffic signal.
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