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State law on crosswalks is clear

 
Published Jan. 7, 2016

Could you explain the laws regarding pedestrian crosswalks in downtown St. Pete? There are different kinds of crosswalks. The ones where you activate the flashing lights for cars to stop are pretty clear, the others not so much. For instance, what if there is a crosswalk but no walking pedestrian sign? What about a walking pedestrian sign but no flashing lights? We have all three types downtown.

S.B. Jackson

This is a question that comes up frequently and warrants a review as we head into the New Year. First, there are no pedestrian laws specific to St. Petersburg; traffic laws regarding pedestrians are statewide. The upshot is that even if a pedestrian crossing has no signage or flashing lights, or has one element but not the other, or neither, as long as crosswalk pavement marking is present, it's a crosswalk and the state laws apply. Here's a review of what is detailed in state law:

A driver operating a motor vehicle approaching an intersection that has both a stoplight and a marked pedestrian crosswalk is required to stop before entering the crosswalk and allow pedestrians walking on a pedestrian "walk" signal to safely cross the road. Drivers must stop if a pedestrian is already in the crosswalk or steps into the crosswalk on your approach and is on the same side of the road as your vehicle. The same goes if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk approaching from the opposite portion of the road (to the driver's left). If a pedestrian has neglected to activate flashing crossing signals, motorists are still required to stop.

This same rule goes if a driver approaches a crosswalk that is marked with signs, but no flashing pedestrian warning lights are present. As long as the pedestrian is in possession of the crosswalk — has already stepped into it or steps into it on a vehicle's approach, the driver must stop.

In the event that a driver approaches a crosswalk that has neither a traffic signal (or one is present but not operating) or a pedestrian signal or signage, the driver is still required to yield to pedestrians crossing the road in a crosswalk. If a pedestrian is crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided, the pedestrian is required to yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.

Florida law also dictates that pedestrians are accountable for safety as well and should not "suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield."

It also stipulates that when a vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to yield to a pedestrian, drivers of any other vehicles approaching behind the stopped vehicle may not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle. We know there have been incidences of this in Pinellas with tragic results. Let's slow down, practice patience, and have a safe 2016.

Email Dr. Delay at docdelay@gmail.com or snail mail to P.O. Box 4954, Seminole FL 33775. Follow @AskDrDelay.