You may be wondering: just exactly what is jaywalking? Merriam Webster defines it as follows: “to cross a street carelessly or in an illegal manner so as to be endangered by traffic.” Ok, so what constitutes “an illegal manner”? According to NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, if there aren’t any crosswalks, signs or signals, the pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles. Therefore, failure to do so is in violation of the law. Conversely, if there is a crosswalk, but no traffic signal, a driver must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
The rules are not always obeyed by drivers or pedestrians.
In 2015, more than 5,300 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States. Closer to home, we’ve seen all-too-often the tragic results of pedestrian accidents on our roadways, including on Interstate 787, the Northway, and other streets. And the Central Avenue corridor has long been a local trouble spot. The Times Union did a study a few years back and concluded that on average, a pedestrian gets hit by a car on Central Avenue more than once a week.
While some measures have been taken since then to address some of the dangers, the risks still exist, and vigilance is key to minimizing that risk.
As more of us will be out walking on Capital District roadways over the next few months, let’s remember some basic safety precautions, including avoiding jaywalking. Below are some tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available.
- If no sidewalk or path is available, walk on the shoulder, facing traffic.
- Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles.
- Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not see you). Make eye contact with drivers as they approach.
- Be predictable. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections when possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.
- If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
- Be visible. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flash light at night. This is especially important during the summer months, when a third of the pedestrian fatalities occur after dusk, between nine and midnight.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your judgment and coordination.
- Look for pedestrians everywhere. Pedestrians may not be walking where they should or may be hard to see—especially in poor lit conditions, including dusk/dawn/night and poor weather.
- Always stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk or where pedestrian crosswalk signs are posted.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They may be stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
- Slow down and look for pedestrians. Be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Follow the speed limit; slow down around pedestrians.
- Stay focused and slow down where children may be present, such as school zones and neighborhoods.