I was prompted to write this letter as a result of my own observations as a police officer, as a resident of Decorah and by the many calls I receive from concerned members of the community regarding the failure of motorists to allow pedestrians to cross streets at marked and un-marked crosswalks.
This is a situation I've watched for many years and I was hopeful that maybe it would change, that motorists would become more observant and courteous. Unfortunately, I've seen no improvement in this situation and judging from the volume of feedback I receive, no one else has seen a change. I know there are a number of misconceptions about the law in this area and I'd like to take this opportunity to clarify what is required.
All traffic is required to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a marked or unmarked crosswalk ... whether the pedestrian is in your lane or not. This requirement only applies to a pedestrian who is in the roadway, or between the curbs.
The law does not require a motorist to stop for a pedestrian who is standing on the sidewalk waiting to cross. Although the law does not require a motorist to stop for a pedestrian waiting to cross, it seems common courtesy and some regard for the welfare of others would suggest this is the right thing to do. This would be especially true when children are waiting to cross a street. Shouldn't we all take responsibility for their safety?
I was recently sitting at an uncontrolled school crossing in a marked police car on Mechanic Street, hoping my presence would encourage motorists to stop for kids trying to cross. A group of about five young kids waited on the curb while traffic continued to drive through. One nice driver did stop for the kids, however, traffic in the adjacent lane continued to drive through, forcing the kids and the stopped driver to wait. Eventually, after many cars drove through, someone did stop and the kids were able to cross.
I know we're all in a hurry to get to work, drop off kids and get to the places we're headed to, but I'm asking that we all take an extra moment to watch for pedestrians, to extend a courtesy when it's the right thing to do and take some responsibility for the safety of others. It really won't delay you in your travels and the favor may be returned someday. Thanks for your help.