Winter is upon us; the days are shorter and often darker than in the summer. Sometimes drivers fail to remove snow from their windshields or allow them to fog up, driving with less vision than perhaps in summer. Under all of these circumstances drivers still need to be aware of pedestrians and follow the law regarding yielding to them.
It seems in our state there is far less compliance by vehicle drivers with laws intended to protect pedestrians than in other states. From past experience, I conclude that in California and New York, among others, either enforcement is stricter than in Minnesota, or drivers simply have more courtesy and respect for pedestrians than in our state. I am going to provide a brief refresher on pedestrian laws:
"Where traffic control signals are not in place or in operation, a driver must stop for a pedestrian crossing within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. A vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk can proceed once the pedestrian has completely crossed the lane in front of the stopped vehicle.
"When a vehicle is stopped at an intersection to allow pedestrians to cross the roadway, drivers of other vehicles approaching from the rear must not pass the other vehicle.
"It is unlawful for the driver of a motor vehicle to proceed through a group of school children crossing a street or highway, or past a member of a school safety patrol or adult crossing guard who is directing children across the roadway and who is holding an official signal in the stop position."
Copyright 2012 Minnesota Safety Council.
Some of you may have stood at the curb in a marked crosswalk and received the universal sign of derision (middle finger) or honking and shouts of profanity from a driver. It is unfortunate that many drivers seem to think that their mission to get to their destination is so much more important than any mere pedestrian. The day that I write this I stood at a recently painted crosswalk in downtown Buffalo, Minn., and watched as three cars in a row zoomed by me at about 40 mph and failed to stop. Likewise, jaywalkers and bikers who ignore traffic laws put themselves at risk and incur the consternation of drivers.
For all of us who share the roads and sidewalks, we should consider and take to heart the messages that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and others have been broadcasting which discourage aggressive driving, as well as texting while driving. In doing so, we can all contribute to safer highways and byways, thereby lessening the frequency of tragedy on Minnesota streets and roads. You can also avoid a traffic citation that will cost you a minimum of $110. I prefer not to see you in court.
Steve Halsey is chambered in Wright County District Court in Buffalo. Halsey is the host of "The District Court Show" on local cable TV public access channels throughout the 10th Judicial District. Excerpts can be viewed at qctv.org/ districtcourtshow. Halsey may also be heard on "Legal Happenings" on KRWC 1360 AM (Buffalo) at 12:30 p.m. Saturdays.