Pedestrian Crosswalks: Let’s Be Perfectly Clear
There's a dangerous road sign that no one seems to understand. It's the big, yellow sign that says: STATE LAW - STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS WITHIN CROSSWALK. Do you know what to do when you see that sign? Most people have it all wrong.
STATE LAW - STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS WITHIN CROSSWALKTen years ago, I wrote an article for the Legal Times, "Dancing with the Cars: Do Pedestrians Really Have the Right of Way?"
Since then, not much has changed legally. There has been, however, a dramatic rise in serious pedestrian accidents including a spike in fatalities. Distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians are often to blame. But even when both drivers and pedestrians are alert, there's a very dangerous road sign that no one seems to understand. It's the big yellow sign that says:
STATE LAW - STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS WITHIN CROSSWALK
What's not to understand? Seems pretty clear-cut. But not really.
The Key Word Is: WITHINLet me repeat that - the key word is: WITHIN.
If you are a pedestrian already IN the crosswalk and trying to cross the street, the law states that the driver must stop and allow you to cross.
If you are a pedestrian standing on the curb AT a crosswalk, the driver does not have to stop and allow you to cross.
Do you see the difference?
Cars must stop for pedestrians who are WITHIN the crosswalk.
Cars do not have to stop for pedestrians AT the crosswalk, standing on the curb.
OK - so now are you are un-confused and understand the law. But, let's be perfectly clear: JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE IN THE CROSSWALK DOES NOT MEAN YOU'RE SAFE.
Dangerous Crosswalk Situation #1Car A is approaching the crosswalk within the speed limit when a pedestrian suddenly steps into the crosswalk and Car A is unable to stop. Who is at fault? The pedestrian, even though he was in the crosswalk. The law states that a pedestrian cannot walk into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
Dangerous Crosswalk Situation #2Car A has stopped for a pedestrian within the crosswalk; the pedestrian crosses in front of Car A only to be hit by Car B in the next lane. Who is at fault? The driver of Car B. In this case, although the pedestrian may have walked into the path of Car B which could not stop in time, Car B failed to noticed that Car A had stopped for a pedestrian within the crosswalk.
See what I mean? No matter who is at fault, the pedestrian, unfortunately, is always the loser. "Pedestrians have the right of way" is only sometimes true. "Pedestrians always get the worst of an accident" is ALWAYS true.
My Top 5 Warnings to PedestriansMy son likes to play a video game called Crossy Road, which is based on the corny joke "why did the chicken cross the road?" The objective of Crossy Road is to get as far as possible across multiple lanes of traffic without being killed. You have to be alert; you have to be quick. It's nerve-wracking! Of course this is just a silly game, but the same techniques apply in real life. Which is why you should listen to my 5 Top Warnings to Pedestrians.
Pay AttentionPut down your phone and pull out the ear buds when crossing the street.
Stay Up On the Curb to Wait to CrossIt's safer. Although cars must stop and allow you to cross if you're standing IN the crosswalk, it's dangerous to be waiting in the street.
Wait for the All ClearEven if a car has stopped to allow you to cross, my advice is to wave it by. Just because one driver has stopped for you doesn't mean you'll be safe to make it all the way across. You may get hit by a second car.
Cross QuicklyOnce you are in the street, you have no protection. Get out of harm's way ASAP.
Cross When the Light Says, "WALK", Not When the Light is Green for TrafficAgain, pay attention. The light may have turned green for traffic but if your light says, "DON'T WALK", there's a reason: drivers may have a green arrow to turn.