Purdue police chief answers questions on pedestrian safety campaign

September 8, 2009 Jim Bush

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - An enhanced pedestrian safety campaign is making headway in educating drivers and pedestrians about the importance of vigilance and crosswalk use around Purdue's campus.

Since Aug. 24 when an enforcement campaign began, Purdue and West Lafayette police have issued 100 warnings and five citations. The two departments are partnering in an effort to urge the campus community to use crosswalks and for drivers to respect pedestrian right-of-ways.

Officers from the two departments have patrolled new crosswalks on streets around campus on foot, by bike and in marked squad cars for the enforcement campaign. In addition to those already in place, new crosswalks are at Russell Street at the intersections of Third and Fourth streets; Northwestern Avenue at Columbia Street and at the corner of Grant and North streets; and at the intersection of Stadium and Northwestern avenues.

"Right now our focus is on getting walkers and motorists to think about safety and to promote the use of crosswalks," Purdue Police Chief John Cox said. "We have thousands of new students on campus and heavy traffic. We're more interested in awareness than in giving tickets. So far, we've given warnings unless it's a blatant violation."

Cox said he has received and answered around 40 e-mails from people regarding the crosswalks. Some had questions, but most just wanted to let him know of their support for the safety feature, he said.

Police officials answer some of the most frequently asked questions below:

Q. A pedestrian is at a crosswalk with electric signals and ventures into the roadway when it says "Don't Walk." Who would be at fault if the pedestrian is hit by a vehicle?

A. Pedestrians are to enter the crosswalks that have electronic signs only when the signs say "Walk." If the pedestrian enters when it says "Don't Walk," the pedestrian would be at fault if an accident occurred.

Q. A person has stepped into the street in a mid-street crosswalk zone with no traffic signals and a motorist pulls up. Who has the right-of-way?

A. The pedestrian has the right-of-way if he or she doesn't cause the vehicle driver to lock their brakes. A pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety to walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it has to come to a sudden stop.

Q. A driver is stopped at a crosswalk and a vehicle approaches from behind and passes the stopped vehicle. Is this legal?

A. No. As long as a vehicle is stopped at a crosswalk, another vehicle may not overtake or pass.

Q. Do pedestrians by law have a duty to obey marked crosswalks at crosswalks at intersections?

State law dictates that between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians may not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

Q. If a pedestrian is at a crosswalk standing at the curb, does a vehicle need to stop.

A. Vehicles are not required to stop until a pedestrian leaves the curb and enters the crosswalk.

Q. How are the crosswalks marked?

A. The crosswalk zones have ladder-style markings as well as yield bars 20 feet before the crosswalk where drivers are to yield. Signs have been installed to identify the crosswalk zones and to alert drivers as to where they are to stop for pedestrians.

Q. Are the laws any different for bicyclists at crosswalks?

A.  Cyclists are bound by the same laws as motor vehicles. When a cyclist is dismounted at a crosswalk, then they will receive the same privileges as a pedestrian.

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

Source: John Cox, 765-494-8221, jkcox@purdue.edu