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I went and looked up the Virginia code section covering right on red, (https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title46.2/chapter8/section46.2-835/ ) because usually when doing a right on red you have to yield to other vehicles. Here’s what I found:

“Such turning traffic shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic using the intersection.”

I was kind of surprised to see that word “lawfully” in there. Generally, the rule in traffic law is that you only worry about yourself. If you have to yield to another driver, it doesn’t matter to you how they got to where they are. So the second part – “other traffic using the intersection” – is what I would have expected. If you’re going right on red, and an opposing driver is making an illegal left turn, you still have to yield to him, you can’t just plow into him. However, drivers only have to yield to pedestrians when they are “lawfully” using the crosswalk!

In Virginia, a cyclist using a sidewalk or crosswalk has the rights and duties of a pedestrian. So if in fact the cyclist was using the crosswalk, and not lawfully, the driver had no obligation to yield.

Makes me wonder how they expect drivers to assess the lawfulness of pedestrians as they decide whether or not to stop for them…

that phrase "lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk" is from the Uniform code and thus shows up in a lot of state's laws. I could find no case on law on how it's been interpreted, but I don't have access to westlaw or anything.

Here's what the federal DOT had to say about it in the 1970's

Which leads to the question, what's the difference between yielding and avoiding a collision?

I wondered the same thing.

It's a matter of how you don't hit them. When you "yield", you pause and let them go on their way before you. When you "avoid a collision", you honk, intimidate and swerve in the expectation that the startled pedestrian, acquiescing in your primacy, leaps jumps back out of your way.

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