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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v04n17)
posted: Aug. 24, 2007

By Ashley Plummer

*The Gazette received a few letters responding to Lindsey Taylor's article on crosswalks in our last issue. To clear up confusion, here is one reader's take.

I would like to start by saying to pedestrians, DO NOT step into the path of a moving car! When a car collides with a pedestrian, the pedestrian always loses.
Having said that, I would like to comment on Lindsey Taylor's article "Village crosswalks: who has the right of way?" in the August 10 edition of your paper.
I am afraid that after reading the article, readers were left with the impression that there is no law regarding who has the right-of-way at a pedestrian crosswalk and that pedestrians are required, merely for their own safety, to wait until there are no vehicles nearby before they cross the street. I was surprised that the article did not mention Indiana Code 9-21-8-36 which says "Except as provided in IC 9-21-17-8, when traffic signals are not in place or not in operation, a person who drives a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if necessary to yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching closely from the opposite half of the roadway."
To me, this sounds as though pedestrians have the right-of-way (IC 9-21-17-8 says that if there is a tunnel or bridge for pedestrian crossing, the pedestrian has to yield to vehicles.).
A traffic signal is "any highway traffic signal by which traffic is alternately directed to stop and permitted to proceed," that is, some automated device which stops traffic and signals pedestrians with a "Walk" or "Don't Walk" light. A crosswalk includes "any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface." Also note that these codes deal specifically with pedestrians, not bicyclists.
The pedestrians have a responsibility under IC 9-21-17-5 not to create hazards. "A pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard."
If you would like to research this for yourself, and I recommend you do, google "IC 9-21-8-36" and you'll be taken to the website which has all of the Indiana Code online.
It seems to me that the way it should work is 1.) pedestrian stops at the edge of the roadway, 2.) vehicles see pedestrian and slow or stop to allow pedestrian passage across the street, 3.) pedestrian waits until vehicles stop and present no immediate hazard, 4.) pedestrian crosses street and 5.) vehicles resume. What usually happens is that step #2 is ignored and the pedestrian is stuck indefinitely doing step #1.
Why were we taught to wait for cars? Because the pedestrian is always hurt more than the car. Drivers mistakenly interpret the pedestrians' hesitancy and infer that the driver has the right-of-way.
As Lindsey Taylor's article says, the Indiana Driver's Manual says that a vehicle should always yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Everyone that has taken driver's education or studied the manual for a driver's test should know what's in it. Perhaps what is needed is a little on-the-spot driver's re-education by the police.
And let me finish by saying to drivers: slow down, look and it only takes a few seconds to let a pedestrian cross. And to pedestrians: DO NOT step into the path of a moving car!
- Jim Alred

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