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Pedestrians must obey traffic lights

Who is the offending party in this situation: At a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks, a pedestrian crosses the street against the light but does so in the crosswalk, while a car traveling in the direction which has the green light passes through the intersection and the crosswalk while the pedestrian is still in the crosswalk. I have seen this occur many times, especially in downtown Ashland, and it drives me nuts.

— Robert J., Ashland

This one's easy, Robert. The pedestrian is the offending party. His offense would be covered under one or both sections of the Oregon Revised Statutes section 814.020, titled "failure to obey a traffic control device." It says a pedestrian commits the offense if the pedestrian does any of the following:

(a) Fails to obey any traffic control device specifically applicable to the pedestrian.

(b) Fails to obey any specific traffic control device described in ORS 814.010 in the manner required by that section.

The manner referenced in (b) above is as follows: If a pedestrian is facing a "Walk" signal indicating that the pedestrian may proceed, the pedestrian may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal. A pedestrian shall not start to cross the roadway in the direction of a signal showing a "Wait" or "Don't Walk."

A pedestrian who has started crossing a roadway on a signal showing "Walk" or any other approved symbol to proceed shall proceed with dispatch to a sidewalk or safety island when the flashing "Don't Walk" or any other approved symbol indicates not to proceed.

The other statute that could be applied is 814.040, titled "failure to yield to vehicles." It says a pedestrian commits the offense if the pedestrian suddenly leaves a curb or other place of safety and moves into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. Both of these statutes are Class D traffic violations, cited at $142.

That being said, it doesn't mean that it's open season on pedestrians if they're in the wrong. ORS 811.005 still applies. It's a short one and states simply 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.

Dace Cochran is a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or email cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.