Clearing up the confusion at crosswalks

February 12, 2013 by The ME Law Firm

As simple as they may appear at first glance if one stops to think about it for a bit crosswalks can actually be a little confusing, especially taking into account recent political focus and changes to crosswalks in and around Orlando.

The problem is a lack of clarity regarding new crosswalks that have been installed around the city. These crosswalks have been installed on major thoroughfares, including South Orange Blossom Trail, south of Interstate 4. The new crosswalks are not installed at intersections. They are seemingly randomly placed along the roadway right in places where there are no corners or traffic lights. The recent political focus has been on how Orlando has been ranked several times now as one of the most dangerous cities in the county to walk around in. Recently, political figures, including former Orange County Chairwoman, Linda Chapin, have taken up the issue and cast new light on the topic. Their goal is to create awareness and increase safety. This is an admirable goal, but at least for me, they have actually been able to create some confusion.

What’s the confusion? Well, I thought I knew all there was to know about crosswalks but when I heard about the new focus and saw the new crosswalks for myself I realized I didn’t know enough, as silly as that sounds. So I looked it up. The good people at http://iyield4peds.org/whynow/ will explain that you must always yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Sounds simple enough, but what about at an intersection with traffic lights? Am I supposed to stop when I have a green light because there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk? The short answer is no, but it’s more complicated than that.

You see at one of these new crosswalks that appear seemingly at random in the middle of the street far from any traffic lights or intersections, you are required to stop, at all times! Yes even during rush hour with three lanes in either direction, with hundreds of cars slogging down the road. If there is a person in the crosswalk you must stop…Period. But if the crosswalk is at an intersection with traffic lights you do not have to stop if your light is green. Because a pedestrian may not enter the crosswalk if they are facing a red light, fair is fair after all. Oh and even if there are no painted crosswalk markings, if there is an intersection, all sides of the intersection are “crosswalks.”

So what are the short notes on the subject?

  • At an intersection with signals everyone, including pedestrians, must obey the signals and only proceed when the signals indicate they have the right of way, meaning they are facing a green light.
  • At an intersection without signals pedestrians will always have the right of way and drivers must allow them to cross the street at the corners even if there are no markings indicating a “crosswalk.”
  • At crosswalks not at an intersection pedestrians will always, ALWAYS, have the right of way and drivers must ALWAYS stop and allow a pedestrian in the crosswalk to cross the street. Whether rain, sleet, snow, dead of night, or three lane road at rush hour, pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way and drivers must stop for them.

It’s the situation in point 3 that gives me the most concern, because until awareness increases it will be dangerous to follow the law and stop at one of these new crosswalks popping up around the city because you are just asking to be “rear-ended” by doing so. So please be careful out there. Oh and it’s worth mentioning that it is also illegal to pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk.


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