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Turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians

March 17, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Franklin County Traffic Safety Board

One of the most frequent complaints from pedestrians crossing streets at intersections where there are pedestrian crossing signals is that they nearly got hit by a turning vehicle. There are several ways that this situation might happen, and several things we need to understand to reduce these occurrences. To help to understand this, please refer to the diagram of a large intersection. Let's say a pedestrian wants to cross from A to B.

In many intersections, including some in Malone, approximately five seconds after the pedestrian gets the "walk" light, the light for the parallel street gets a green light - no turn arrows, just a ball green. At this time, the pedestrian should be part way across the street and at least into the intersection and visible to motorists.

So, when the light turns green for cars 1 and 2, the pedestrian is at least part-way across the intersecting street. If car #1 wants to turn right, the operator MUST yield to any pedestrian crossing between A & B. Furthermore, if car No. 2 wanted to turn left onto the intersecting street, this driver must yield to any oncoming traffic and also MUST yield to any pedestrian crossing between A & B.

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A third scenario is that car No. 1 wants to make a right turn, and the intersection does not prohibit right turns on red. Again, the driver MUST yield to any pedestrian walking between A & B or A & C before making the intended turn.

Here's another piece of information that if motorists understood better would make pedestrian crossing safer. Where there are pedestrian signals, the time allowed for crossing is based on federal guidelines for walking speed, normally about three feet per second. Some pedestrians don't walk at that rate, and therefore there is a chance that the pedestrian has not completed the crossing when the vehicular traffic gets a green light. Vehicle and Traffic Law provides that any vehicle MUST yield the right of way to a pedestrian already in the act of crossing, whether the vehicle is turning right, left, or just going straight. Thus, at any intersection, motorists must become more aware of pedestrians.

Driving is a complex task and that's why distractions are becoming a very serious problem. What seems to be a simple task of driving through an intersection is really more complicated than it appears. We need to be cognizant of the signals, of vehicles already in the intersection, of turning vehicles, of who must yield to whom, and we must be aware of pedestrians as well. All this can be a lot to process. So, hang up your cell phones, stop eating while driving, don't fiddle with the CD or radio, and pay attention to the task of driving safely.


This and all Did You Know articles can be found on the web at: and click on Traffic Safety Board under "Departments."



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