A recent collision in a crosswalk in the village of Malone (although it could be in any village) gives a glimpse of just how complex Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) can be.
The incident took place at the intersection of West Main Street and Amsden Street, when a 12-year child with a bicycle was trying to cross West Main Street, a busy, four-lane street. Although there are no signal lights at this intersection, there is a marked crosswalk across West Main Street. The report states that a vehicle traveling in the nearest outside lane stopped to allow the child to cross. Apparently the child then mounted his bicycle and proceeded to ride the bike across the street within the marked crosswalk, only to ride into the right side of a car traveling in the inside lane that didn't see the child in the crosswalk because of the vehicle that had already stopped.
Who's at fault here, and what, if any, tickets should be given?
Here's where it gets complicated. You could possibly charge the driver in the inside lane with "failure to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in the crosswalk," but by definition, a person riding a bicycle does not qualify as a pedestrian under VTL. You could possibly charge the child under Section 1151(b), "No pedestrian shall suddenly leave the curb and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield." Another consideration is to charge the child under Section 1231, which states that traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles, and you certainly can't drive your car in a crosswalk.
Another possibility would be to charge the driver under Section 1151(c), which states, "Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle."
Lastly, you could consider charging the driver under Section 1146, "Every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist etc."
So it is obvious that there are many possibilities with this incident, but none of them is solely and obviously the one to cite. What is or should be obvious here is that the child should have been "walking" his bicycle across the crosswalk, not riding it. The other obvious lesson to be learned is that motorists MUST exercise due care when approaching and driving across a crosswalk. It may not be obvious that there is a pedestrian or a bicyclist crossing, but if you see another vehicle stopped at a crosswalk, you should assume that someone is indeed crossing until you are certain that there isn't.
What is your take on this incident? And in case your were wondering about the result, the motorist was originally charged under Section 1151(a), failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but that was later rescinded. Likewise, the child was not charged with any violation, either.
For more articles on Vehicle and Traffic Law and traffic safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board's website at www.franklincony.org and click on the Traffic Safety Board from the pull-down menu under departments. "Like" us on Facebook as well. You may also call me, Dave Werner, at 518-483-1882 with your comments and questions or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org