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Increase in Pedestrian Deaths: Yield for Crosswalks!

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The Minneapolis Tribune reported this week that pedestrian deaths are on the rise:

“It is distressing to see such an increase in pedestrian deaths,” Donna Berger, director of the DPS Office of Traffic Safety, said in a statement. “These are our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members and friends. It’s especially upsetting because this doesn’t have to happen. These tragedies are preventable, but it requires both motorists and pedestrians to do their part.”

Minnesota law says drivers must yield to a pedestrian attempting to properly cross in a crosswalk, if they can safely stop. All legal intersections are crosswalks, whether painted or not.

Daily you see people standing under  big yellow pedestrian signs, in front of clearly marked cross walks, just watching cars buzz by. The law of the state of Minnesota requires that cars yield to these people:

169.21 Pedestrian. Subd. 2. Rights in absence of signal.
(a) Where traffic-control signals are not in place or 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 must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped.

The signs are even extra easy to understand:

But still people buzz on by. This is the same as running stop signs, lights or yield signs. Luckily pedestrians are smart enough to know that people routinely break the law.

The Minnesota Safety Council gives us a handy refresher on the law:

The Minnesota Crosswalk Law: Key Elements

Where traffic control signals are not in place or in operation, a driver must stop for a pedestrian crossing within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. A vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk can proceed once the pedestrian has completely crossed the lane in front of the stopped vehicle.

A pedestrian must not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is approaching. There is no defined distance that a pedestrian must abide by before entering the crosswalk, but common sense should prevail. The law states: “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.”

When a vehicle is stopped at an intersection to allow pedestrians to cross the roadway, drivers of other vehicles approaching from the rear must not pass the other vehicle.

It’s unlawful for the driver of a motor vehicle to proceed through a group of school children crossing a street or highway, or past a member of a school safety patrol or adult crossing guard who is directing children across the roadway and who is holding an official signal in the stop position.

Failure to obey the law is a misdemeanor. A second violation within one year is a gross misdemeanor.

Cities can designate crosswalks for longer illumination of “Walk” “Don’t Walk” signal lights. Intersections where there is a high concentration of pedestrians, senior citizens, school children, etc., qualify for such designation. District councils, community clubs, or other organizations can petition their city councils to designate these crosswalks.

It is even a great concern when a car does lawfully stop and another car charges up on them, flies around to pass, or starts yelling and flipping the “crazy law abider” off. It amazes me. I remember a number of years back when one of the legislators who passed the law stood out behind the capitol in the crosswalk and counted cars as they passed. It may be time that the police did more to enforce this often ignored law.

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