Information About Crosswalk Safety For Pedestrians and Motorists
We are frequently called by community members about a car on campus that did not stop
for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, or about a pedestrian that stepped off the curb in
front of a vehicle without looking. Our campus becomes very active during the day
with both vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic, especially when classes are changing.
Pedestrian safety and motorist safety is a shared responsibility and not following
the laws, either by the pedestrian or motorist can be very dangerous - even deadly.
The New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law states the following:
§ 1151. Pedestrians' right of way in crosswalks. (a) 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 on the roadway upon
which the vehicle is traveling, except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel
or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles.
(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 impractical for the driver
(c) 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 such stopped vehicle.
We have highlighted the relevant sections for this discussion, to illustrate this
shared responsibility. The first section means that when a pedestrian is already
within the crosswalk, the motorist must yield or stop. A motorist does not have to
stop if you are merely approaching the crosswalk, or signaling your intention to enter
it, only if you are already in the crosswalk as the car is approaching. The law also
prohibits pedestrians from suddenly stepping off the curb in front of a vehicle and
walking into the path of the vehicle.
In both cases, the motorist failing to yield, or the pedestrian stepping off the curb,
police can issue a traffic ticket to the person violating the law. That includes
the pedestrian who is also required to obey Vehicle and Traffic Law. (VTL §1150)
So, what is the solution? It's simple. Drivers need to know the law, abide by it
and be aware of driving conditions, especially on a crowded college campus. Pedestrians
also need to know the law and use caution when crossing the street. Look both ways
before crossing and don't be distracted by friends, or the music in your earphones.
Pedestrians generally have the right of way in a crosswalk, but that right of way
is not absolute and is frequently misunderstood. By understanding the law, and being
respectful of it as both a motorist and pedestrian, our campus roadways will be safe