Pedestrian safety is the duty of everyonePublished 9:11am Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Column: Guest Column, by Jason Taylor
The Albert Lea Police Department frequently fields complaints from drivers that pedestrians are not using crosswalks. Conversely, it is not uncommon to see vehicles race through the crosswalks with little regard for the safety of pedestrians.
It is important for everyone’s safety that both pedestrians and operators of motor vehicles understand their rights and responsibilities.
Minnesota law requires that “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 must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped.”
Other drivers must not pass a vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians. Additionally, state law requires drivers to stop and give the right of way to blind persons “carrying a cane predominantly white or metallic in color, with or without red tip, or using a guide dog” when the person is entering any intersection.
Pedestrians have an equally important responsibility to not enter the roadway in front of a vehicle that is so close that the driver cannot stop for them. Pedestrians also must abide by traffic control signals if signals are present. Pedestrians should walk against traffic on the left side of the roadway or left shoulder of the roadway when practicable. If a sidewalk is provided, it is unlawful to walk in the roadway.
Pedestrians are not necessarily in violation of Minnesota law if they cross a roadway outside of a crosswalk or away from an intersection. However, in these situations, pedestrians must yield the right of way to the traffic. If there are traffic signals on adjacent intersections, as is the case in much of downtown, then the pedestrian must cross at the marked crosswalk.
Drivers should be especially cautious when driving near schools. Driving through a group of schoolchildren while they are crossing a roadway or past a crossing guard holding an “official signal in the stop position” is prohibited and in certain circumstances could lead to an arrest.
In all cases, drivers are required to use due care to avoid hitting pedestrians. It is recommended that drivers decrease speed and avoid distractions while driving around areas where pedestrians are present or likely to be present. Such areas would include parks, schools and shopping areas.
Pedestrians should be aware of their surroundings, wear light-colored or reflective clothing after dark and should try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the roadway to confirm they have been seen.
Common courtesy and safe behaviors, in and out of the car, can go a long way toward making the roads safer for everyone.
For more information on this and other Minnesota statutes please visit: www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats.
Jason Taylor is the downtown neighborhood officer for the Albert Lea Police Department.