Travelers to New Jersey this back to school season may be in for an unwelcome surprise when they are slapped with a fine for a little known law that police have been aggressively pursuing. Our state’s law about stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalks can be somewhat murky: it is clear in that you need to stop for someone who is in the process of actively walking through a crosswalk in your path. When it gets a bit more obscure, however, is when that stop actually needs to happen.
It is clear that the burden of decision is firmly on the shoulders of the driver. While the pedestrian may be taking a risk with their own life for entering into a crosswalk on a busy road, it is the cars around the walker who are ultimately responsible for stopping in time and allowing that person to pass through unencumbered. There is also the question of a person trying to cross a road where there is not a clearly painted crosswalk—or any type of crossing lines at all. The NJ Division of Traffic Safety has ruled that drivers should also yield in that situation, and in general always be alert for pedestrians who may be moving into or out of their pathway.
Now for the trickiest question of all: what if a pedestrian has put just one foot into the crosswalk, but hasn’t started actively moving through the space? Can you get ticketed for going even then?
Yes, according to the state, and many disgruntled drivers who have had to find out that they were doing something illegal the hard way. No one is hurt if you pull through a crosswalk when the pedestrian has just one foot off the curb, so no harm done, right? Wrong.
New Jersey is somewhat unique in their wording of the pedestrian standing restrictions, when it is and when it’s not okay to drive forward. In many other states, it’s clear that the pedestrian needs to make some type of physical indication that they would like to cross the street, such as by stepping into the crosswalk itself. But in New Jersey, you can get a failure to yield ticket even if the pedestrian has just put one foot in the crosswalk.
While it’s always a good idea for the pedestrian and the driver to make some type of eye contact or other communication, this doesn’t always happen, and there is a great disparity when it comes to different towns and the way that they enforce this law and how well motorists bend to the needs of the pedestrians on foot.
This is a relatively new law in the state, only about 6 years old, and in that time NJ motorists have been ticketed more than 55,000 times for failing to yield to pedestrians. While there is no data out there on how egregious the ‘failure’ actually was, it is safe to say that there have been more than a handful of drivers ticketed for not yielding when they didn’t even know the pedestrian wanted to cross.
The news is not all stacked against the motorists, though. For a pedestrian who tries to go into the crosswalk at the last minute when a driver is quickly approaching it, and expect them to slam on the breaks, they can also be ticketed. Pedestrians who try to cross this way can be hit with a $54 summons, and since the law was passed, there have been 8,300 of those summons as well.
If you are a driver or pedestrian who has been hit with any sort of fines or summons surrounding crosswalk yielding rights, you need a lawyer on your side to sort out the issue properly. Call us at the Law Offices of Leon Matchin today at 732-662-7658 for more information.