Traffic Tip Tuesday: Crosswalk etiquette

There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  While this is true, it’s also true that if one is injured, then the chances of completing the journey is probably slim to none. With March 20 marking the first day of spring, that means more foot traffic out and about, and if one wants to ensure the completion of the journey, then it’s important to know the etiquette of sharing the road with pedestrians.  In today’s traffic tip, I will be discussing what to do upon arrival at a crosswalk.

To fully understand what motorists and pedestrians are to do at a crosswalk, it is important to understand what constitutes a crosswalk. The New Mexico Criminal and Traffic Law Manual defines a crosswalk as, “(1) that part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway; and (2) any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface…”.

If we look at the definition more closely, we can see that a crosswalk must be clearly marked like the ones lining the downtown business district in the city of Farmington. These crosswalks can be either white or yellow in color and are usually recognized by the striped pattern. Crosswalks are not confined to one specific area, as they are in residential neighborhoods and in parking lots.  Other areas where crosswalks are usually found are near schools. These crosswalks typically operate during certain hours and during certain times of the year. For instance, the crosswalk on College Boulevard that is utilized by the students and parents of children attending Mesa Verde Elementary and Heights Middle School doesn’t operate during the summer months. A pedestrian tunnel and an overhead pedestrian crossing are two other types of crosswalks that are affected by criminal and traffic law, but due to the fact that neither one of these structures exist in Farmington, I will only be discussing the law as it applies to crosswalks on the road.

Now that we’ve defined what a crosswalk is, it’s time to look at specific laws covering pedestrians and motorists at crosswalks.  First, Farmington City Ordinance 25-5-1. Prohibited crossing, states:

“No pedestrian shall cross a roadway in any business district other than in a crosswalk or at an intersection.”

Second, Farmington City Ordinance 25-5-2. Crossing at right angles, states:

“No pedestrian shall, except in a marked crosswalk or at an intersection controlled by pedestrian walk/wait signals, cross a roadway other than by a route at right angles to the curb or by the shortest route to the opposite curb.”

It’s important to know that each of the two previous ordinances is specific to the city of Farmington and as such, the Farmington city code has an area designated as a business district. I can only describe the business district as the area of Main Street beginning at Airport Drive and ending at Hutton Avenue. It is in this area where the two previous ordinances would be utilized and enforced.

For areas outside of the business district, such as near Animas Valley Mall or in neighborhoods, the following statutes would apply:

New Mexico State Statute 66-7-333. Pedestrians subject to traffic regulations.

A. Pedestrians shall be subject to traffic-control signals at intersections as provided in Section 66-7-105 NMSA 1978 unless required by local ordinances to comply strictly with such signals, but at all other places pedestrians shall be accorded the privileges and shall be subject to the restrictions stated in Sections 66-7-333 through 66-7-340 NMSA 1978.

B. Local authorities are hereby empowered by ordinance to require that pedestrians shall strictly [strictly] comply with the directions of any official traffic-control signal and may by ordinance prohibit pedestrians from crossing any roadway in a business district or any designated highways except in a crosswalk.

New Mexico State Statute 66-7-334. Pedestrians’ right of way in crosswalks.

A. When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk.

B. No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

C. Subsection A of this section shall not apply under the conditions stated in Subsection B of Section 66-7-335 NMSA 1978.

D. Whenever a vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of another vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

New Mexico State Statute 66-7-335. Crossing at other than crosswalks.

A. Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

B. Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

C. Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

Last, but not least, New Mexico State Statute 66-7-337. Drivers to exercise due care states:

“Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of Sections 66-7-333 through 66-7-340 NMSA 1978 every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.”

Crosswalk etiquette is the responsibility of both the motorist and the pedestrian. The two city ordinances along with New Mexico State Statutes 66-7-334B and 66-7-335C clearly state that pedestrians must cross the street in a marked crosswalk. If a pedestrian crosses the street in accordance with the laws, ordinances and regulations, then the chances of the pedestrian being cited for a violation is slim to none. These laws protect the pedestrian so they can safely cross the street from one side to the other, as New Mexico State Statute 66-7-334A states that a vehicle must yield the right-of-way to the pedestrian as long as the pedestrian is crossing the street in a marked crosswalk and adhering to the traffic-control signal (if one is in place).

Now as a motorist, upon arriving at an intersection with a marked crosswalk, you must yield to a pedestrian if they are in the process of crossing the street in the crosswalk. A driver of a motor vehicle who does not yield to a pedestrian who has started to cross the street at a crosswalk, would be guilty of a violation if a collision were to occur. Coming to a complete stop, rather than rolling through the intersection, is the best way to avoid a collision with a pedestrian. Also, driving defensively with a mindset of, not all pedestrians will yield to your vehicle or can see your vehicle approaching the intersection, is a sound way to avoid a crash. New Mexico State Statutes 33-7-334B and 33-7-335A protect motorists in the instance that a pedestrian crosses the street outside of a crosswalk, otherwise known as jaywalking.

As you can see, there are several laws and ordinances that have been enacted to regulate the manner in which citizens are to cross the road. While there is no set rule for who yields to whom if the pedestrian and vehicle arrive at the intersection at the same time, there is one rule that always rings true, courtesy pays. The simplest way to remember crosswalk etiquette is to abide by the rule that if there is a marked crosswalk, the motorist must yield to the pedestrian. If there is no marked crosswalk, then the pedestrian must yield to the motorist. So if you want to ensure you complete your journey of a thousand miles, it’s important as a pedestrian to use the crosswalks to cross the streets and as motorists to yield to those pedestrians crossing the street in a crosswalk.

Nez, WillardOfficer Nez has been a law enforcement officer for 12 years. He’s worked for the Farmington Police Department for 10 years and for the New Mexico State University Police Department in Las Cruces, NM for two years. He has been with FPD’s Traffic Division since 2012. Officer Nez is a drug recognition expert and a traffic collision reconstructionist. He is also a certified Glock armorer and an AR15/M4 armorer.