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Driver could have been cited for stopping for pedestrian

Doesn't a driver have to stop for a pedestrian if he steps into the crosswalk, even if there's a left-hand turn lane on the opposite side of the street? I was going northbound on Columbus Avenue and came to the intersection of Prune Street when a female pedestrian on the west side of the street stepped into the crosswalk. Columbus is a three-lane street at that point, counting the left-hand turn lane. I stopped for her, as I was under the impression it didn't matter which side of the street the pedestrian was on, and was rear-ended. The police officer said I could've been cited because I stopped when I didn't need to.

— Ron I., Medford

Well Ron, I think the issue should have been the guy following too closely to stop in time, but nonetheless, to answer your question, you didn't have to stop. Could you have been cited? Yes, but it might have been hard to defend in court and let me tell you my reasoning.

The law regarding stopping for pedestrians is found in ORS 811.028 and says (shortened for the purposes of answering this question) a driver must stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian when the pedestrian is:

  • Proceeding in accordance with a traffic control device as provided under ORS 814.010 (walk/don't walk signals.)
  • Crossing the roadway in a crosswalk, and in any of the following locations: (A) In the lane in which the driver's vehicle is traveling or (B) In a lane adjacent to the lane in which the driver's vehicle is traveling.

The offense of failing to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian is a Class B traffic violation, bail $242.

So, to answer your question, according to the law you didn't have to stop while she was two lanes over from you. You would have been required to stop when she reached the west-most edge of the left-turn lane. But, personally, I don't have any problem with you being careful and stopping. Since I travel that area often to and from home and the office, I know it doesn't take much time for a person or kid to cross one lane and reach the center lane, which would require you to stop, so why not stop as soon as they step into the crosswalk?

Additionally, I think that once the pedestrian is in the crosswalk the person feels more secure and might not realize that a car would not be stopping until that person reaches the center lane of a three-lane road.

Finally, why did I feel it would be hard to defend giving you a ticket for stopping even though you weren't legally required to do so? Because ORS 811.005 states there is a duty to exercise due care. It says that none of the provisions of the vehicle code relieve a pedestrian from the duty to exercise due care or relieve a driver from the duty to exercise due care concerning pedestrians. So if you felt you were exercising due care by stopping prudently for a pedestrian already into the crosswalk, even on the other side of a multilane road, then I'd think you'd have a great defense if cited. At least in my opinion.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.