Traffic Cop: Pedestrians, Crosswalks and U-Turns
Monty, when can you legally proceed when you have stopped your vehicle for someone in a crosswalk?
There are a couple of vehicle code sections that pertain to your question. The first states that the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. There are a couple of exceptions, but for the most part I think we all know that if someone is in the crosswalk and walking across the roadway, we need to stop.
This leads to your question. How far away from your vehicle do they have to be before you can go ahead and continue on? There is no magic number of feet or anything that says as long as they are in the roadway, you have to remain stopped. The key word in this section is right-of-way. Generally, when you stop for another vehicle and yield the right-of-way, once that vehicle has proceeded, then you proceed. The intent behind this section is to allow the pedestrian the opportunity to walk across the roadway, without fear of being struck by a vehicle. When children are traversing the roadway, even with a parent, they many times will do the unexpected. Change directions and run back across the street where they just came from. Drop something in the road and reach down to retrieve it. So there are no specific guidelines as to your question, other than treating each crosswalk situation as if it were your kids that were crossing in front of you.
The next vehicle code section that deals with crosswalks states, Whenever any vehicle has stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.
How many times have you stopped to allow the pedestrian to cross the roadway and the guy next to you goes zipping past, nearly missing the person who just passed in front of your vehicle? Scary. This section hopefully will give you more reason to remain stopped for as long as possible, just to alert other drivers that there is someone in the crosswalk.
If you ever just sit there in your vehicle and count to yourself, "thousand 1, thousand, thousand 2 …" as that person is crossing the road, more times than not you won’t reach 15. Fifteen seconds is really not that much time out of our lives. We should be able to spare that to make life a little safer for someone else.
A few years back I made a left turn from Churn Creek Road on to Bond Street. I made a U-turn on Bond so I could get back to Churn Creek Road to go to Circle K. It was at around 11 p.m. and I got a ticket. I have no record and haven't had a ticket in 30 years. I chose to go to the driving school so it wouldn't go on my record. The instructor said I shouldn't have even gotten a ticket. Couldn't the officer just have given me a warning? I later learned that Bond Street is a drug street. Is it wrong to make that kind of turn?
Let’s start out by knowing what the vehicle code states regarding U-turns; No person in a business district shall make a U-turn, except at an intersection, or on a divided highway where an opening has been provided. This turning movement shall be made as close as practicable to the extreme left-hand edge of the lanes moving in the driver's direction of travel immediately prior to the initiation of the turning movement, when more than one lane in the direction of travel is present.
No person in a residence district shall make a U-turn when any other vehicle is approaching from either direction within 200 feet, except at an intersection when the approaching vehicle is controlled by an official traffic control device.
In most traffic enforcement stops, the officer always has the option to give a verbal warning to the alleged violator or issue a written citation. I liked to go with the citation, that way you had something to take home with you, but that was me. My purpose for providing various traffic safety information is to refresh our memories as to when we can and when we should not do something, or at least if it was lawful or not.
We have hundreds of pages of vehicle code violations and regulations that tell us what we should and shouldn’t do while we are operating our motor vehicles. It really all comes down to just one thing. Drive like your life depended on it, because it does.
Please remember to stop for those people in the crosswalks, and then enjoy the ride.
Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign's Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.
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