Pedestrians despise drivers who disobey traffic signals and do not yield to pedestrians. On the other hand, drivers despise pedestrians who run out in front of them and disobey the pedestrian walk or don’t walk signals. What does the law in Wisconsin require in situations where pedestrians and drivers come into contact?
See if you can correctly answer “Who Has the Right of Way?” in the following situations. The answers are provided below.
- A driver is pulling out of a driveway and has to cross the sidewalk before entering the roadway and a pedestrian is about to cross on the sidewalk.
- A driver is stopped at a red light at an intersection and signals to turn right.
- A pedestrian is using the crosswalk and crossing over the road in directly in front of the driver prior to the driver making a turn.
- A pedestrian is crossing a road at an unmarked crosswalk from the end of the sidewalk on one side of the road to the sidewalk on the other side of the road and a driver approaches.
- A driver has a green light and is attempting to turn left when a pedestrian is using the crosswalk and crossing over the same street where the driver intends to turn.
- A pedestrian is attempting to cross at a marked crosswalk in an area uncontrolled by traffic lights and a driver approaches.
- A pedestrian is not at an intersection and wants to cross the road when there are drivers coming from both directions.
- A pedestrian is in the median and the 'Don’t Walk' sign is flashing and continues to cross the street when a driver is going to turn right on a red light.
- A pedestrian is travelling along the left side of the road and cars approach from both directions.
You've completed the quiz! Now see how well you did!
One. The pedestrian has the right of way. According to Wis. Stat. § 346.47(1), a driver about to cross over a sidewalk before entering the roadway must yield to any pedestrians, pedestrians using a motorized wheelchair, or bicyclists using the sidewalk.
Two. The pedestrian has the right of way as long as he or she is abiding by the walk signals in the crosswalk. At an intersection where traffic is controlled by traffic lights and there are walk signals for pedestrians, drivers must yield to pedestrians who are crossing in accordance with the walk signals. Wis. Stat. § 346.23(1).
Three. The pedestrian has the right of way. At an intersection where traffic is not controlled by traffic lights, drivers must yield to pedestrians who are crossing the roadway at an unmarked crosswalk. Wis. Stat. § 346.24 (1). In this case, unmarked means there are no white lines of walk signals for pedestrians, but if you traced a path from the end of the sidewalk on one side of the street to the start of the sidewalk on the other side of the street, this area would be known as an unmarked crosswalk.
Four. This is a variation of the same law as number two, and, therefore, the pedestrian also has the right of way. The statute explicitly says, “No operator of a vehicle proceeding ahead on a green signal may begin a turn at a controlled intersection or crosswalk when a pedestrian, bicyclist, or rider of an electric personal assistive mobility device crossing In the crosswalk on a green or ‘Walk’ signal would be endangered or interfered with in any way.” Wis. Stat. § 346.23(1).
Five. This situation speaks to the bright yellow signs you see on the side of the street that are not at an intersection. The crosswalks are marked by white lines and sometimes even have signs in the center of the street that say, “State law, yield to pedestrians within crosswalk.” Again, pedestrians here also have the right of way. However, is very common to see cars flying through the crosswalk without stopping and many drivers do not know they should stop or ignore this traffic rule. In these types of situations, pedestrians also must abide by Wis. Stat. § 346.24(2) which says, “No pedestrian, bicyclist, or rider of an electric personal assistive mobility device shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or ride into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is difficult for the operator of the vehicle to yield.” In other words, although the pedestrian has the right of way, he or she should not run out into the intersection and assume the vehicles will stop at a very short distance. Pedestrians should watch out for their safety as well.
Six. If a pedestrian is attempting to cross the road where there is no crosswalk, the vehicle has the right of way. The pedestrian must yield to the vehicle before crossing. Wis. Stat. § 346.25.
Seven. This is a trick question with no clear answer. When a don’t walk sign is flashing, it generally means a pedestrian should not begin to cross the street, but if he or she is already in the crosswalk, he or she should continue crossing until he or she reaches “a sidewalk or safety zone.” Wis. Stat. § 346.38(2). In this case, who has the right of way depends on whether or not the pedestrian could cross to the other side before the don’t walk signal stopped blinking. As a pedestrian, it may be safer to wait in the median for the next walk sign.
Eight. According to Wis. Stat. § 346.28(1), pedestrians who walk or run on the road must travel on the left side of the road. If an oncoming vehicle is coming towards the pedestrian, the pedestrian should “if practicable, move to the extreme outer limit of the traveled portion of the highway.” Therefore, the driver would have the right of way and the pedestrian would be required to move as far left as possible. In Wisconsin, the court interpreted the “traveled portion” of the road to include the shoulder when it interpreted the earlier version of the statute. Wojciechowski v. Baron, 274 Wis. 364, 367, 80 N.W.2d 434, 436 (1957) (overruled on other grounds). Therefore, the pedestrian should move to the shoulder of the road when an oncoming car approaches and yield to the vehicle.
In many situations in which pedestrians and drivers interact, problems do not arise. However, there are situations in which both drivers and pedestrians fail to yield and accidents happen. The failure to yield may be due to numerous reasons, but one reason may be that drivers and pedestrians alike do not know the laws and violation of these laws rarely results in punishment, unless there is an accident. Violations of most of the statutes described above carry monetary penalties of between $20 and $300. However, without enforcement of the laws, people will continue to break them until an accident happens. Knowing and abiding by the laws keeps pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers safe.
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