What are the rules for yielding to pedestrians?

Anyone who both drives a vehicle and walks on the sidewalk is likely to sympathize with the needs of both motorists and pedestrians. Unfortunately, they're just as likely to encounter drivers and pedestrians who act in a disrespectful way.

People who frequently walk in downtown areas have no doubt encountered drivers who refuse to stop—or even slow down—when they are waiting to cross a street at a crosswalk. Drivers, meanwhile, are sure to be irked when pedestrians jaywalk or ignore a nearby crosswalk while crossing the street.

While some drivers and pedestrians simply ignore the rules for crossing a street, others may simply be unfamiliar with them. Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that states differentiate between stopping for pedestrians and yielding to them. The National Conference of State Legislatures says 41 states require drivers to yield to pedestrians, while only eight specify that drivers must stop for pedestrians. New Jersey is unique in that drivers must yield to pedestrians at unmarked crossings, but stop for them at marked crossings.

In any case, drivers must be extremely cautious when encountering a pedestrian on the road. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, a total of 4,735 pedestrians in the United States were killed in traffic accidents in 2013. Pedestrian fatalities were up 15 percent compared to 2009.

Connecticut law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in most cases, and pedestrians have had the right of way at a crosswalk since 1929. However, there are several specifications in the state law, and both drivers and pedestrians can be penalized for failing to abide by the rules.

Drivers must slow or stop to allow a pedestrian to cross if they have stepped up to the curb by a marked crosswalk or stepped directly into the crosswalk. Drivers must also yield if the pedestrian has started to cross the road. If you approach a vehicle that has stopped to let a pedestrian cross, you are not allowed to pass them.

A pedestrian has the right of way at an intersection with a signal, but only when the signal indicates that they can walk. Connecticut law also states that a pedestrian can finish crossing to a safe location if the "don't walk" signal begins flashing while they are crossing, and should not cross an intersection diagonally.

The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles says each intersection is considered to have a crosswalk, even if it is not marked. Pedestrians also have the right of way at these "unmarked" crosswalks, and drivers need to yield to any pedestrian who steps to the curb or is crossing.

Pedestrians should use extreme caution at this type of crossing, however. Drivers may be unaware of an unmarked crosswalk, or they may not consider the pedestrian to have the right of way if the crosswalk is not specifically identified.

Drivers generally need to be especially careful when making turns in areas with crosswalks, as pedestrians have the right of way over turning traffic. Before making a right hand turn on a red light, make sure no pedestrians are crossing. Drivers should also check for pedestrians before proceeding from stop signs located in from of crosswalks.

Turning across a sidewalk to enter a driveway or parking lot also requires you to look out for pedestrians. Drivers must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk before making this turn.

The rules are different when a pedestrian is trying to cross at any location other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Drivers are not required to yield to pedestrians in these circumstances. Instead, pedestrians must give the right of way to traffic and cross only when it is safe to do so.

Pedestrians are forbidden from walking or running into the path of a vehicle which is so close to them that it does not have the opportunity to yield. State law also forbids pedestrians from walking or standing in a roadway if they are intoxicated enough to be a hazard, and requires pedestrians to yield to emergency vehicles with sirens or flashers activated.

Drivers must show "reasonable care" when traveling near a pedestrian or other vulnerable roadway users, such as bicyclists and horseback riders. The law also says they must take steps to avoid a collision with pedestrians, including sounding the horn if need be.

Both drivers and pedestrians can be fined for violating the rules regarding crossings. A driver who ignores a school crossing guard's stop sign can be hit with an especially high penalty. This fine is $450 for a first offense, with fines of $500 to $1,000 for additional offenses.

Drivers should be aware of signs indicating an upcoming crosswalk and quickly look to either end of a crosswalk when approaching to see if anyone is waiting to cross. Be especially cautious around schools or areas where you are likely to encounter children, elderly residents, or disabled pedestrians.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation says pedestrians should carry a flashlight or wear bright clothing at night to ensure that they are more visible to drivers. They should also be aware that some vehicles have longer stopping distances, and that buses and trucks may come close to the curb while making a turn. Never start crossing the street until you are certain that the driver has seen you and is yielding to you.

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