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Jaywalking and the Courteous Pedestrian

Jaywalking is the word people use to describe crossing the street mid-block not in a marked crosswalk.  The Motor Vehicle Act says that when a pedestrian is crossing a highway at a point not in a crosswalk, the pedestrian must yield the right of way to a vehicle.  Not surprisingly, drivers still have a duty to avoid hitting jaywalking pedestrians.  Because they have made a mistake does not give anyone the right to run them over.

Jaywalking is a common cause of a pedestrian accident

Jaywalking is a common cause of pedestrian fatality.  Often preliminary investigations conclude that speed and alcohol were not factors.  Simply put, the pedestrian stepped in front of the vehicle without looking, so the driver had no time to react.  Jaywalking pedestrians need to remember that all it takes is a moment of invisibility for them to be in peril —an oncoming driver’s vision obscured by sunlight, shrubbery, or by hard-to-see clothing.

Pedestrian Behavior

Pedestrians clearly have the right of way in marked crosswalks.  The law requires drivers to yield when “the pedestrian is crossing the highway in a crosswalk and the pedestrian is on the half of the highway on which the vehicle is traveling, or is approaching so closely from the other half of the highway that he or she is in danger.”  But to this the law adds that pedestrians “must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.”

Pedestrian at Marked Crosswalks

Pedestrian behavior at marked crosswalks can put drivers in an impossible position.  Some pedestrians are aggressive and step out with a clearly visible break in the traffic flow only a few cars away, forcing the drivers in this unbroken row all to brake suddenly.

On the other hand, some pedestrians are so timid, watchful drivers have to guess their intentions.  While drivers should always yield to any pedestrian in the vicinity of a crosswalk entrance, staying with the flow, especially when traffic is heavy, may feel safer than stopping suddenly for a hesitant pedestrian.  Pedestrians need to be clear about their intentions, and extra watchful, even going so far as to make eye contact with oncoming drivers before stepping into the crosswalk.  Dawdling across is discourteous and unsafe. The longer pedestrians are in a crosswalk, the longer they are at risk.

Pedestrian at Light-controlled Intersections

At light-controlled intersections pedestrians must obey the pedestrian signals.  Failing to do so is unsafe and discourteous to all other road users.  Crossing before the “Walk” signal or “walking person” signal is displayed or darting across when the Red Hand or “Don’t Walk” signs are already displayed, is unsafe and illegal.  The close-call scenarios these pedestrians cause are extremely stressful for drivers.

Road safety requires all road users including pedestrians to be patient, courteous and ever watchful for their own and other’s safety.

Please drive safely.

Road Rules by Cedric Hughes and Leslie McGuffin