By Todd Shepard
July 11, 2013
In a recent letter sent to me by a concerned pedestrian and cyclist, I was asked to write a column concerning the rights of pedestrians in crosswalks. The author of the letter mentioned that she has had to jump back several times in a crosswalk due to drivers not yielding and has been nearly hit when walking her bike across a marked crosswalk in town. I want to thank Linda for her suggestion, it is a great idea.
All motorists should be aware that when a pedestrian is within a marked crosswalk or is crossing a roadway at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal, pedestrians do have the right of way according to Vermont law, as long as they are following the traffic signal. Motorists are not required by law to stop for a pedestrian on the curb waiting to cross.
There are several sections of Vermont motor vehicle law that mention the rights and prohibitions of pedestrians crossing roadways in marked crosswalks and crosswalks controlled by traffic signals.
Motor vehicle laws are found in Title 23 of Vermont Statutes Annotated. Section 1022, which explains the rules at intersections controlled by traffic signals, says that a pedestrian may cross a road when they are facing a solid green signal, but not a green arrow. Vehicles must yield to pedestrians crossing at a traffic-light controlled intersection regardless of whether there is a marked crosswalk or not, providing there are no pedestrian control signals. Essentially, this section says that the same rules apply to pedestrians as vehicle drivers following the traffic lights, but gives the right of way to pedestrians first. Pedestrians cannot cross when facing a red signal and are warned that there is not enough time to cross when a yellow signal is observed.
Section 1023 states that a pedestrian control signal—a signal indicating whether a pedestrian should walk or stop—overrides a traffic control signal.
Other sections such as 1051 and 1052 mention other rules pertaining to pedestrians and roadways.
Pedestrians are never given the right of way to cross an intersection diagonally unless directed to by a traffic control device or officer directing traffic.
Pedestrians maintain the right of way crossing a roadway when a traffic signal is not present if crossing in a marked crosswalk. Vehicles shall slow or stop to allow a pedestrian already in a crosswalk to cross the road.
Pedestrians must yield to all vehicles when crossing a roadway when traffic control signals or pedestrian crossing signals are not present and there are no marked crosswalks.
Pedestrians, by law, cannot suddenly enter a crosswalk and walk or run across a roadway in front of a moving vehicle when the vehicle was so close that it would have been impossible for the driver to yield to the pedestrian.
As public safety officials, we still caution pedestrians to be very careful and take the time to take a second look before crossing a road, even if you have the right of way. Remember that a human body is no match for a 2,000-pound vehicle.
What are the consequences if a driver fails to yield to a pedestrian? The typical fine associated with drivers failing to yield right of way to pedestrians is $214.
A couple of resources are listed below for additional information.
www.leg.state.vt.us/statutesmain.cfm to read the sections mentioned above
www.town.williston.vt.us/police and follow the link to Community Safety.
Todd Shepard is Williston’s police chief.