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Tennessee Pedestrian Laws


Under Tennessee law, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections and driveways. However, pedestrians must act responsibly, using pedestrian signals and sidewalks where they are available. When crossing the road at any point other than a marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, a pedestrian has a statutory duty to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway. It is the duty of pedestrians to look before starting across a highway, and in the exercise of reasonable care for their own safety, to keep a timely lookout for approaching motor vehicle traffic. On roadways where there is no sidewalk, pedestrians should always walk facing traffic.

TCA 55-8-110 - Traffic-control Signals
 (a) Whenever traffic is controlled by traffic-control signals exhibiting the words "Go," "Caution" or "Stop," or exhibiting different colored lights successively one (1) at a time, or with arrows, the following colors only shall be used and the terms and lights shall indicate and apply to drivers or vehicles and pedestrians as follows:
   (1) Green alone or "Go":
      (A) Vehicular traffic facing the signal may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits either turn. But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time the signal is exhibited; and
      (B) Pedestrians facing the signal may proceed across the roadway within any marked or unmarked crosswalk;
   (2) Yellow alone or "Caution," when shown following the green or "Go" signal:
      (A) Vehicular traffic facing the signal is warned that the red or "Stop" signal will be exhibited immediately thereafter and that vehicular traffic shall not enter or cross the intersection when the red or "Stop" signal is exhibited; and
      (B) Pedestrians facing the signal are advised that there is insufficient time to cross the roadway, and any pedestrian then starting to cross shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles;
   (3) Red alone or "Stop":
      (A) Vehicular traffic facing the signal shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or if there is a clearly marked stop line preceding the crosswalk, then before such stop line, but if there is neither a crosswalk nor a stop line, then before entering the intersection, and the vehicular traffic shall remain standing until green or "Go" is shown alone. A right turn on a red signal shall be permitted at all intersections within the state; provided, that the prospective turning car shall come to a full and complete stop before turning and that the turning car shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and cross traffic traveling in accordance with their traffic signal; provided, further, such turn will not endanger other traffic lawfully using the intersection. A right turn on red shall be permitted at all intersections, except those that are clearly marked by a "No Turns On Red" sign, which may be erected by the responsible municipal or county governments at intersections which they decide require no right turns on red in the interest of traffic safety;
      (B) No pedestrian facing such signal shall enter the roadway unless entry can be made safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic; and
      (C) A left turn on a red or stop signal shall be permitted at all intersections within the state where a one-way street intersects with another one-way street moving in the same direction into which the left turn would be made from the original one-way street. Before making such a turn, the prospective turning car shall come to a full and complete stop and shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and cross traffic traveling in accordance with the traffic signal so as not to endanger traffic lawfully using the intersection. A left turn on red shall be permitted at any applicable intersection except those clearly marked by a "No Turn on Red" sign, which may be erected by the responsible municipal or county governments at intersections that these governments decide require no left turns on red in the interest of traffic safety;
   (4) Red with green arrow:
      (A) Vehicular traffic facing this signal may cautiously enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by the arrow, but shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within a crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection; and
      (B) No pedestrian facing the signal shall enter the roadway unless entry can be made safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic;
   (5) In the event an official traffic-control signal is erected and maintained at a place other than an intersection, the provisions of this section shall be applicable except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application. Any stop required shall be made at a sign or before the stop line, but in the absence of any sign or stop line the stop shall be made at the signal;
   (6) The operator of any streetcar shall obey the signals in subdivisions (a)(1)-(5) as applicable to vehicles;
   (7) All electric highway, street and road vehicular traffic-control signals in Tennessee shall have a uniform arrangement of the colored lenses in the various signal faces of the signals, as follows: In each signal face, all red lenses in vertical signals shall be located above all yellow and green lenses, and in horizontal signals, to the left of all yellow and green lenses. Yellow lenses shall be located between any red lens or lenses and all other lenses; and
   (8) Whenever in this state three-light traffic-control signals are used displaying successively green, yellow, and red lights for the direction of motorists and pedestrians, the minimum time exposure of the yellow light shall be three (3) seconds. Any state agency or any political subdivision of the state that installs, owns, operates, or maintains any such traffic-control signal light shall set or cause to be set the timing-control device for the signal light in compliance with this subdivision (a)(8). No state agency or any political subdivision of the state that installs, owns, operates, or maintains a traffic-control signal light in an intersection that employs a surveillance camera for the enforcement or monitoring of traffic violations shall reduce the time exposure of the yellow light at the intersection with the intended purpose of increasing the number of traffic violations.
(b) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the driver of a motorcycle approaching an intersection that is controlled by a traffic-control signal utilizing a vehicle detection device that is inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle shall come to a full and complete stop at the intersection and, after exercising due care as provided by law, may proceed with due caution when it is safe to do so. It is not a defense to a violation of § 55-8-109 that the driver of a motorcycle proceeded under the belief that a traffic-control signal utilized a vehicle detection device or was inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle when the signal did not utilize a vehicle detection device or that the device was not in fact inoperative due to the size of the motorcycle.
(c) The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection that is controlled by a traffic-control signal that is inoperative because of mechanical failure or accident shall come to a full and complete stop at the intersection, and may proceed with due caution when it is safe to do so; provided, that if two (2) or more vehicles enter such an intersection from different directions at approximately the same time, after having come to full and complete stops, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. A traffic-control signal shall not be considered inoperative if the signal is operating in flashing mode. If a signal is operating in flashing mode, it shall require obedience by vehicular traffic pursuant to § 55-8-112.
(d) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the rider of a bicycle approaching an intersection that is controlled by a traffic-control signal utilizing a vehicle detection device that is inoperative due to the size of the bicycle shall come to a full and complete stop at the intersection and, after exercising due care as provided by law, may proceed with due caution when it is safe to do so. It is not a defense to a violation of § 55-8-109 that the rider of a bicycle proceeded under the belief that a traffic-control signal utilized a vehicle detection device or was inoperative due to the size of the bicycle when the signal did not utilize a vehicle detection device or that the device was not in fact inoperative due to the size of the bicycle.
TCA 55-8-111 - Pedestrian-control Signals
 Whenever special pedestrian-control signals exhibiting the words "Walk" or "Wait" or "Don't Walk" are in place, these signals shall indicate as follows:
   (1) Walk. Pedestrians facing the signals may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right-of-way by the drivers of all vehicles; and
   (2) Wait or Don't Walk. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing on the walk signal shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety island while the wait signal is showing.
TCA 55-8-133 - Pedestrians Subject to Traffic Regulations
 (a) Pedestrians shall be subject to traffic-control signals at intersections as provided in § 55-8-110, and at all other places, pedestrians shall be accorded the privileges and shall be subject to the restrictions stated in this chapter and chapter 10, parts 1-5 of this title.
(b) Local authorities are empowered to require by ordinances that pedestrians strictly comply with the directions of any official traffic-control signal and may by ordinance prohibit pedestrians from crossing any roadway in a business district or any designated highways except in a crosswalk.
TCA 55-8-134 - Pedestrian's Right-of-Way in Crosswalks

  (a)  (1) Unless in a marked school zone when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation, when traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
   (2) When in a marked school zone when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver shall remain stopped until the pedestrian has crossed the roadway on which the vehicle is stopped.
(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
(c) Subsection (a) does not apply under the conditions stated in § 55-8-135(b).
(d) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.
TCA 55-8-135 - Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
 (a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
(b) Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
(c) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.
TCA 55-8-136 - Drivers to Exercise Due Care
 (a) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway, and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary, and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.
(b) Notwithstanding any speed limit or zone in effect at the time, or right-of-way rules that may be applicable, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care by operating the vehicle at a safe speed, by maintaining a safe lookout, by keeping the vehicle under proper control and by devoting full time and attention to operating the vehicle, under the existing circumstances as necessary in order to be able to see and to avoid endangering life, limb or property and to see and avoid colliding with any other vehicle or person, or any road sign, guard rail or any fixed object either legally using or legally parked or legally placed, upon any roadway, within or beside the roadway right-of-way including, but not limited to, any adjacent sidewalk, bicycle lane, shoulder or berm.
(c) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
TCA 55-8-137 - Pedestrians to Use the Right Half of Crosswalks
  Pedestrians shall move, whenever practicable, upon the right half of crosswalks.
TCA 55-8-138 - Pedestrians on Roadways
 (a) Except as provided in this section, where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk or use a wheelchair along and upon an adjacent roadway.
(b) Where sidewalks are not provided or are obstructed, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic that may approach from the opposite direction.
(c) Where sidewalks are not provided, are obstructed or are not wheelchair accessible, any person using a wheelchair along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, use the wheelchair on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic that may approach from the opposite direction; provided, that a person using a wheelchair along and upon a highway may use the wheelchair on the right side of the roadway or its shoulder if it is convenient or reasonably necessary for travel by the person.
(d) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
TCA 55-8-180 - Pedestrians Led By Guide Dog or Carrying Identifying Cane Given Right of Way – Penalty
(a) Whenever any pedestrian guided by a guide dog or dog on a blaze orange leash, or carrying in any raised or extended position a cane or similar stick white in color or white tipped with red, shall undertake to cross any public street or thoroughfare in this state, the driver of each and every vehicle approaching that pedestrian carrying the cane or stick or conducted by such dog shall bring such vehicle to a complete stop and before proceeding shall take all precautions necessary to avoid injuring the pedestrian; provided, that nothing in this section shall be construed as making any person totally or partially blind or otherwise incapacitated guilty of contributory negligence in undertaking to cross any street or thoroughfare without being guided by a trained dog or carrying a cane or stick of the type specified in subsection (a).
(b) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
TCA 55-8-197 Failure to Yield Right of Way - Rules of the Road

  1. Any person who violates subdivisions (a)(1)-(6) and the violation results in an accident resulting in serious bodily injury to or death of any person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor:
       (1) Section 55-8-115 by failing to drive on the right half of the roadway as provided in the section, except for those motor vehicles in compliance with § 55-7-115 or § 55-7-202;
       (2) Section 55-8-118 or § 55-8-119 by unlawfully overtaking and passing another vehicle as provided in those sections;
       (3) Section 55-8-128, § 55-8-129, § 55-8-130 or § 55-8-131 by failing to yield the right of way as provided in those sections;
       (4) Section 55-8-134, by failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks as provided in the section;
       (5) Section 55-8-136, by failing to exercise due care as provided in the section; or
       (6) Section 55-8-175(c), by failing to overtake and pass a bicycle safely as provided in § 55-8-175(c).
    (b) For the purposes of this section, unless the context otherwise requires, "serious bodily injury" means:
       (1) Substantial risk of death;
       (2) Serious disfigurement; or
       (3) Protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member, organ or mental faculty.
    (c)  (1) A violation of subsection (a) is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of two hundred and fifty dollars ($250) if the accident results in serious bodily injury of another.
       (2) A violation of subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of five hundred dollars ($500) if the accident results in the death of another.
    (d) The court shall send the department a record of any of the convictions of any of the sections indicated in subsection (a). The court shall indicate on the record or abstract whether the violation resulted in serious bodily injury of another or death of another.
    (e) Upon conviction, the court may revoke the license or permit to drive and any nonresident operating privilege of a person convicted under this section for a period of up to six (6) months, if the accident results in serious bodily injury of another, and up to one (1) year if the accident results in death of another.

55-8-127.  Restrictions on use of controlled-access roadway.

  (a) The department of transportation and local authorities may, with respect to any controlled-access roadway under their respective jurisdictions, prohibit the use of that roadway by pedestrians, bicycles or other nonmotorized traffic or by any person operating a motor-driven cycle.
(b) The department or the local authority adopting any such prohibitory regulation shall erect and maintain official signs on the controlled-access roadway on which the regulations are applicable, and when the signs are erected, a person who disobeys the restrictions stated on the signs commits a Class C misdemeanor.