Pedestrian, motorists struggle for right-of-way on local streets



College students often use a variety of methods for transportation. With on-campus housing and parking both offered in close proximity to classes, many either drive or walk to their destinations.

Sometimes those on foot and those behind the wheel find themselves competing over the crosswalk area, but both pedestrians and motorists often assume they know the rules to using the road. 

Rumor has it that pedestrians can use crosswalks at any time they wish and assume they have absolute right of way, regardless of oncoming traffic. Walkers sometimes cross without looking both ways and expect motorists to yield without considering street conditions. 

Many drivers, on the other hand, think that they only have to stop their cars while people are in front of them on the street.

Considering that pedestrians can use crosswalks equipped with the yellow safety light instead of just jaywalking, it seems as if this power struggle can be easily avoided.

Cory Kowalski, senior in accounting, said that he has been held up not by crosswalks, but by jaywalkers. He also admitted, however, that he jaywalks himself when no cars are present because it is faster than walking around the ends of the block where the crosswalk is. 

When asked about stopping at crosswalks, Kowalski said, “I assumed that you as a driver had to stop when they are entering until they are the other side of the road. I never thought I have to wait while they are crossing the other side of the road. People aren’t allowed to drive on the other side.”

Josh Dickinson, senior in wildlife and outdoor enterprise management, said that his experiences using crosswalks have differed on campus.

“Sometimes it’s a pain when you are stuck behind one when class lets out,” said Dickinson. “I’ve had to wait for 10 minutes with whole line of cars waiting with me. Though with walking to class, I’ve never had someone yell at me for crossing the street, but I’ve had people almost hit me while on the crosswalk.”

When asked about the crosswalks equipped with a yellow safety light, Dickinson said that he doesn’t always hit the button before he crosses, even though he thinks it’s a good idea. Usually when he is crossing it is already flashing since he walks with a number of people crossing at the same time. Dickinson said he assumed one of the others would push the button before they all crossed.

Bruce Field, junior in architectural engineering, said while he’s never had a near miss at a crosswalk, he does jaywalk.

“I do sometimes jaywalk on my way if no cars are around,” said Field. “I feel that as long as I am not impeding traffic then there no problem.”

According to the city’s Standard Traffic Ordinance, Article 11, Section 64(A), “When traffic-control signals are not in place, or in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian entering or crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.”

This means that it is OK for pedestrians to cross in a crosswalk, but if they jaywalk, the pedestrian is responsible for any accidents or injuries that they suffer.

This does not mean, however, that motorists are not responsible for their actions as well. If anybody is in a crosswalk, motorists are held accountable and are responsible for slowing down if anybody is in a crosswalk.

Ultimately, both walkers and motorists share equal responsibility to keep the roads safe.