How to Walk the Talk in the Crosswalk
By Cathy Crandall
Most of us who travel on two feet also drive. Sometimes, when we change from feet to wheels and back again, we forget what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes or vehicle. Understanding the law, along with applying some old-fashioned common sense, will help create a peaceful coexistence between pedestrians and drivers.
Two problems occur most frequently: The first is driver error, when pedestrians legally occupy a crosswalk. The second is when pedestrians are in the street at places other than a crosswalk (e.g., “jaywalking”). At a crosswalk, Oregon law requires that the driver stop for a pedestrian in the driver’s lane of travel or in the lane into which the driver is turning. A driver can also be cited for a traffic infraction if the driver violates the pedestrian “safety buffer.”
According to the law, when a pedestrian is legally in the crosswalk, a driver must stop and remain stopped for the pedestrian “in a lane adjacent to the driver’s lane of travel; in the lane adjacent to the lane in which the driver is turning if there is no traffic light controlling the intersection; who is less than six feet from the lane into which the driver is turning at an intersection controlled by a traffic light.”
Pedestrians and drivers should be aware that the law applies to both marked and unmarked crosswalks.
Before we, as walkers, begin feeling smug and virtuous about our rights in the crosswalk, remember that being right and being smart are often different. You can be completely legal, but that does not matter when you are on your way to the hospital.
As walkers, we should avoid distractions and be alert and attentive. Make eye contact with drivers whenever possible. Wear bright colors, maybe even flags or streamers, to draw attention. At dusk or in the dark, wear safety lights or reflective clothing.
Also remember that the law prohibits pedestrians from suddenly leaving a curb or other place of safety and stepping into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard — even if you step into a crosswalk. Giving drivers time to stop is just good sense.
Pedestrians can also get hurt by crossing the street at places other than a crosswalk. A crosswalk (marked or unmarked) provides temporary protection for your road use. Remember, the road is the domain of the vehicle and pedestrians must yield to vehicles when crossing elsewhere or otherwise using the road.
Unfortunately, not everyone obeys the law, so walkers need to protect themselves. Right of way or not, in vehicle-pedestrian accidents, the pedestrian almost always loses.
This information pertains to the State of Oregon only. For more information about laws in your state, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles.
Cathy Crandall, a retired attorney who spends a lot more time on her feet now, shares her adventures at nwramblings.blogspot.com and pdxtrail.blogspot.com.