Near sites such as the Oakland Museum, Lake Merritt, some BART stations, and the Grand Lake Farmer's Market, you'll see midblock crosswalks. Midblock crosswalks make it more convenient for people to reach their destination by eliminating extra walking to a street corner.
Even when well-marked and lit, midblock crosswalks are more dangerous than crosswalks found at intersections with traffic signals. In many cases, drivers aren't expecting a crosswalk, don't see them, and don't slow down.
In a study referenced by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, data collected from 1983 to 2003 showed the odds of sustaining a fatal injury are 51 percent higher at midblock crosswalks in daylight conditions than at intersections. In the dark, fatal injury risk is 76 percent higher at midblock crosswalks.
To stay safe when crossing at a crosswalk, especially midblock, keep these things in mind:
• If there's a traffic signal, wait for it. If you dart across when it seems like you have a clear shot, you put yourself at risk for an accident.
• Don't assume drivers will stop. Make sure those cars really are slowing down before you cross midblock. Walk slowly and keep your eyes on approaching vehicles. Make eye contact if you can. Wave hello if you like.
• Don't use your cellphone in any way when crossing a crosswalk, especially midblock.
When you're driving, stay alert for midblock crosswalks downtown and in people-populated areas. If a pedestrian approaches the crosswalk, slow down and stop. Even if it seems like you can proceed safely, stop and let them cross.
Stopping at a crosswalk isn't just good manners. It's the law.
California Vehicle Code 21950, the "California Crosswalk Law," states:
(a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection...
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any unmarked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
Under this law, you don't have to wait until the pedestrian has completely left the crosswalk before you drive on. But you do have to exercise "all due care."
Pedestrians have to do their part too. You can't jump into the crosswalk out of the blue, in front of a swiftly moving vehicle. You have to also "exercise due care" and respect motorists' right of way.
I'm working on a case now where a motorist hit a young woman as she crossed a midblock crosswalk. She suffers serious injuries. The woman lived nearby and knew the area well. The motorist was new to the area and claimed not to see the pedestrian or the crosswalk.
Whether you're driving or walking, use extra caution when approaching or crossing at a midblock crosswalk.
If you were injured while crossing a crosswalk, contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Most lawyers offer a free consultation to determine if you have a valid claim. They'll also help you navigate complicated insurance issues and help you receive the best possible compensation for your injuries.
Photo courtesy of Eric Fischer, Flickr