Crosswalk accidents are to be avoided by everyone, pedestrian and driver alike. But they happen all too frequently.
Tucson has a non-uniform crosswalk system that is confusing to pedestrians as well as drivers.
“Crosswalks” exist at every intersection if there are sidewalks on either side of the street, regardless of whether a crosswalk is actually painted on the street. These are called “unmarked crosswalks.” Drivers have a duty to yield to pedestrians at all “unmarked crosswalks.” Unmarked crosswalks are usually not signed to warn drivers to be cautious in approaching them. It is the driver’s responsibility to be aware of these “unmarked crosswalks.”
Crosswalks that are painted on the street are usually signed warning drivers that they are approaching a crosswalk. Even so, drivers are often oblivious to their existence.
Crosswalks can be controlled by a pedestrian warning signal that flashes red while the pedestrian crosses. These are hard for a motorist to miss, and provide good protection to the pedestrian.
Crosswalks can also be controlled by a traffic signal that goes from green to red and stops traffic while the pedestrian crosses. These also offer good protection.
Finally, crosswalks can be controlled by the “Walk” “Don’t Walk” lights that are attached to the traffic signals at signaled intersections. These also offer good protection to pedestrians, and give the pedestrian sufficient time to cross the street before the light changes from green to red.
So when does the pedestrian have the right of way? Almost always. A pedestrian has the right of way unless the pedestrian is crossing against a traffic light at a light controlled intersection or light controlled crosswalk. Even then, a driver has the duty to “exercise due care” to avoid colliding with any person on the roadway. If crossing with the light or on the “Walk” signal, pedestrians always have the right of way.
Pedestrians always have the right of way in marked and unmarked crosswalks that are not controlled by traffic signals or pedestrian signals, regardless of whether they are signed.
Be careful! The pedestrian is vulnerable to any car that may strike him. None of us want to bear the guilt of seriously injuring someone in a crosswalk. Be aware that crosswalks exist at intersections whether they are painted on the street or not. If a car beside you is slowing, it is probably for good reason. Make sure there isn’t a pedestrian in the street before continuing on your way.
This safety tip is brought to you in the hopes of raising awareness of unmarked crosswalks, and overall driving safety.