Crosswalk safety: Safer crossing starts with you
Crossing the street in Columbus can often seem dangerous. Even at a marked crosswalk, vehicles often don’t stop for pedestrians, particularly on multiple lane roads. This creates a vicious cycle: some vehicles don’t stop at crosswalks, so drivers are afraid to stop out of fear of a rear-end collision. The end result is fewer vehicles stopping, which causes pedestrians to feel unsafe crossing.The more vehicles that don’t stop/yield at crosswalks, the more people start to believe that this is the norm, thereby worsening the situation.
Part of the problem lies with the wording of the law. Indiana State Law states that vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within a crosswalk that are in the same half of the roadway as the vehicle or when a pedestrian is closely approaching (Ind. Code 9-21-8-36). This means that, by law, pedestrians must be in or closely approaching the roadway in order for vehicles to be required to stop. However, State Law also requires that pedestrians not suddenly leave the curb and walk into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it creates a hazard (Ind. Code 9-21-17-5). This creates a gray area - at what point can the pedestrian cross in a safe manner? The language of the law makes it unclear what is expected of them for both drivers and pedestrians.
How can we improve crosswalk safety in Columbus? Improved signage at marked crosswalks is one way that Columbus is already making improvements. Have you experienced the new RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon) and HAWK (High-Intensity Activated CrossWalk) signals in town? If you are curious of how to use these signals check out our blog post; HAWK Signal: What you need to know.
Increased enforcement of crosswalk laws would also help. The City could also make an ordinance to change the wording from yield to stop. In the longer term, infrastructure improvements, such as pedestrian signals and traffic calming measures, may be appropriate at certain locations to ensure that each crossing is as safe as possible.
In the short term, drivers and pedestrians alike should be aware of and obey the laws about crosswalks. You can help make our city safer by using crosswalks correctly as a pedestrian and by spreading the word that vehicles should STOP for pedestrians at all crosswalks.