WHITE BEAR LAKE — A driver who sped up to get through a crosswalk right in front of a group of pedestrians during a police department crosswalk enforcement campaign last month said they were “in a hurry to get home,” reported Officer Jon Sanders.
The driver was one of 41 stopped by White Bear Lake officers during a crosswalk enforcement initiative Aug. 26 and 29. Many of the drivers reported they simply did not see the pedestrians in the crosswalk, Sander said.
Other drivers said: “I was on the phone;” “I should have stopped;” “The law is dumb;” “I need to pay more attention at crosswalks.”
Thirty-three of the drivers were cited for failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk. Six were given a verbal warning. Two drivers were cited for not wearing a seat belt. One driver did not have a valid license.
Two drivers were found to be under the influence of alcohol; field sobriety tests were administered, but neither driver was over the legal limit of 0.08.
The enforcement initiative was conducted at six crosswalks across the city. Officers spent about eight hours crossing the street and pulling over violators.
This initiative was designed to educate the public on Minnesota crosswalk laws and ultimately help prevent a pedestrian-involved motor vehicle crash in a crosswalk, Sanders said.
Minnesota state law requires drivers to stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing within marked crosswalks or at intersections with no traffic signals.
Police officers enforce the state crosswalk law by using a safe stopping distance based on the speed limit, as dictated by National Highway Traffic Administration guidelines, Sanders explained. For the enforcement initiative, officers placed orange cones at a safe stopping distance and pulled over cars that failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks if drivers were beyond the cones when the pedestrian entered the crosswalk. Pedestrians need to be in the crosswalk or road at an intersection to have the right of way, Sanders said. Minnesota state law also tells pedestrians they should not walk into the path of a vehicle if it is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
It was the second summer the department participated in the initiative. Last year, 163 drivers were stopped and 131 were cited for failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The campaign was held at 12 crosswalks on four different days.
Sara Marie Moore