Ask a Trooper: Pedestrian safety is  everyone’s responsibility

Question: My family and I have concerns about crosswalk safety due to traffic not stopping and pedestrians not knowing what to do. Can you share how best to navigate such a crosswalk for both motorists and pedestrians?  

Answer: Minnesota State Statute defines “Crosswalk” as any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface. The dictionary definition is “a marked path where people can safely walk across a street or road.”

Crosswalks involve pedestrians and motor vehicles – the literal two-way street. That means everyone involved – pedestrian and driver must share the road. Each person has their part in personal responsibility and accountability. Failure to yield the right-of-way and driver/pedestrian inattention/distraction are the main contributing factors in pedestrian crashes. A few simple rules of the road can help get us all home safely at the end of the day:

Safety Tips for Drivers

•Scan the road and sidewalks ahead for pedestrians. Drive attentively and at safe speeds. Remember, pedestrians can be difficult to see, especially in bad weather or at night. 

•Anticipate pedestrians especially in urban areas, around schools and colleges. 

•Before making a turn, look in all directions for pedestrians.

•Look carefully behind your vehicle before backing up, especially for small children.

•Watch for people in wheelchairs and motorized carts, who may be below eye level.

•Stop for crossing pedestrians at every intersection, even those without crosswalks or stoplights.  Stop far enough back so drivers in other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop. 

•Do not block crosswalks while stopped, and don’t pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians. Drive smart by slowing down in neighborhoods and always park the phone, it’s the law! 

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

•Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections; don’t cross mid-block and obey traffic signals.

•Make eye contact with drivers and ensure they see you and will stop.

•Clearly show your intentions to cross. When you have a system to activate (flashing lights/beacon) – use them.

•Watch for turning and passing vehicles.

•Look across all lanes for moving vehicles before proceeding.

•Continue to be alert and watch for vehicles when walking in a crosswalk — drivers aren’t always looking for pedestrians.

•Use sidewalks where provided — where no sidewalks are provided, it is usually safer to walk facing traffic. 

•Make it easy for drivers to see you — dress in light colors and wear retro-reflective material. Carry a flashlight when it’s dark.

•Alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to walk safely, just like they do a person’s ability to drive.

•Use extra caution when crossing multiple-lane, higher speed streets. 

•When crossing the road, stay off your phone or device. Distractions can cause a pedestrian to enter the roadway when traffic is coming. 

Pedestrian Safety Is Everyone’s Responsibility. 

SGT. NEIL DICKENSON is Minnesota State Patrol Public Information Officer for the state’s northeast region. Send questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues to neil.dickenson@state.mn or by mail to Minnesota State Patrol, 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth MN 55811. Follow Dickenson on Twitter at @MSPPIO_NE . 

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