Bob Haase’s Another Can Of Worms

Pedestrian Crosswalks

You may have noticed the signs that are place in crosswalks reminding motorists of the law requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks.  You will find these in just about any town or city you go through and this law was enacted to protect pedestrians from getting hit by cars.  I think the intent was good, but as more pedestrians realize that they have the right of way over the cars, I think it is creating a dangerous situation.


Earlier this year I was traveling north on south Main Street in Fond du Lac.  It was about 9:30pm and it was dark out.  I seen a lady standing by the curb at the intersection and the light was green.  Just before I got to the crosswalk the lady stepped out right in front of me and I slammed on the brakes and just barely avoided hitting her.  She shouted to me that she had the right of way and had some choice words for me.  It was my understanding that at controlled intersections both cars and pedestrians must obey the signals which meant that if I had the green light I had the right of way.  At all other crosswalks the pedestrians have the right of way over the cars.


The problem with this law is that  pedestrians are now stepping out right in front of cars and expecting them to stop.  I always try to slow down as I see a pedestrian close to the curb wanting to cross.  If they step out into the crosswalk I stop and give them the right of way as required by law.  If the pedestrian steps off the curb when you are going the legal speed limit and you are just a few feet away from them, it can become dangerous to stop in that you might lose control and skid into them or get rear ended by a car following too close forcing your car into them.


I also think there are some pedestrians that don’t realize that as soon as they step into the crosswalk that cars are suppose to stop and yield the right of way to them.  They expect you to keep going and they just start their crossing early maybe because of cars coming a little further away.   This is especially true if they are crossing from the other side of the street in the other lane of traffic.  I should also clarify that this law applies to all marked crosswalks, not just the one’s with the signs.


I think it would be good for the police department and area television stations to cover this on the nightly news, showing examples of what to do at crosswalks.  The signs at crosswalks explains the drivers responsibility, but I have not seen signage or education on the pedestrians responsibility, especially at controlled intersections.  Pedestrians also need to understand that if they step out in front of a car going 25 miles per hour and the car is 15 feet away, the driver may not be able to stop.  The intent of the law was to protect pedestrians at crosswalks.  If pedestrians expect cars to stop when they step out right in front of them, the law may do just the opposite. 


Have you ever driven past a pedestrian when they were in the crosswalk.  If you have you were probably in violation of the law!


Bob Haase is the host of “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m. on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ.