Is jaywalking still illegal?

The in basket: Melissa Carter Tangen asks a question I’m surprised hasn’t been asked before during the 19 years of the Road Warrior column. Is there still such a thing as jaywalking?

“The other day I was driving along Kitsap Mall Boulevard,” Melissa said, “and a man was standing at the corner of Poplars Road, with the intent to cross towards the mall. This is not a crosswalk and there are no signs alerting drivers that pedestrians may be crossing.

“A deputy was ahead of me in the left lane, I was in the lane closest to the curb, and he had stopped in middle of the road to apparently allow the pedestrian to cross.  This was unknown to me at the time.

“I slowed down, looked around to see if there was anything in middle of the road that was preventing the deputy from driving and saw nothing so I continued slowly forward.  The deputy then caught up with me, lights flashing, and warned me that pedestrians always have the right of way (agreed), and if there is any intent to cross the road, no matter where they are, that the drivers must stop.

“Obviously I understand if there is a person in the road crossing, I am going to stop.  However if they are standing on the curb planning to cross when the traffic is gone and they are not near a crosswalk, am I really supposed to just stop in middle of the road so they can perform, in all intents and purposes, a ‘jaywalk’?

“I could not find this rule anywhere in researching online, and in my opinion this is very dangerous because the drivers are not expecting to have to stop in middle of a stretch of road for a pedestrian who does not wish to walk to a crosswalk.  Can you enlighten me as to whether this is the law or just a common courtesy that may be done for a pedestrian?”

The out basket: Actually, the pedestrian Melissa describes was in a crosswalk, an unmarked one, which are considered to exist at any intersection of public roads that doesn’t have the painted variety.

Jaywalking does exist but, like California stops, the law doesn’t use the term. It says that a pedestrian cannot legally cross in the middle of a block with traffic signals at adjacent intersections. Kitsap Mall Boulevard’s intersections with Silverdale Way and Northwest Plaza Road aren’t adjacent, because Poplars lies between them and has no traffic signals. Plaza and Randall Way, the next street to the north, have no intervening intersections, so would be considered to be adjacent and crossing at mid-block there would be illegal.

Entrances to business parking areas are not legally intersections.

It’s a $56 fine.

Adjacent intersections with signals are uncommon in Kitsap County, and therefore, so is jaywalking

Frankly, it’s a tough call on whether to stop for a pedestrian waiting at the edge of a four- or five-lane street at an unmarked crosswalk, legally required or not. Drivers may not be able to see the walker because some car will always be stopped first, and may shield the pedestrian from the view of those in the other lane. If you don’t properly interpret why the other car is stopped, it seems a situation where the pedestrian is in greater danger, not less.

But the law says what it says, and Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s department, puts it this way.

“We recognize that the location where Poplars Avenue joins Kitsap Mall Boulevard is not the most optimum in that the intersection is on a curve.  This intersection does not contain a marked crosswalk that crosses the five lanes of Kitsap Mall Boulevard.

” A pedestrian who wishes to cross Kitsap Mall Boulevard, at this intersection, is required to wait until approaching traffic is clear and it is safe to proceed across the roadway, per RCW 46.61.240(1).”

If you want to read an RCW, they are online at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/

“If a pedestrian has stepped off of the curb and is walking across a marked or unmarked crosswalk,” Scott said, “approaching traffic must stop and yield to the pedestrian when the pedestrian is within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling.  Essentially, if the pedestrian is crossing in front of them, drivers need to wait until the pedestrian has reached the centerline or center turn lane before proceeding. If the pedestrian is crossing from the opposite side, drivers must stop and yield once the pedestrian arrives at the roadway centerline or center turn lane.  RCW 46.61.235(1).

“Whenever a vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk, or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.  RCW 46.61.235(4). This is the statute that applies to the situation presented by Ms.Tangen.

“Without speaking with the deputy mentioned in Ms. Tangen’s e-mail,” Scott continued, “I don’t have the total story as to why the deputy stopped to permit the pedestrian to cross at that intersection.  The law doesn’t require a driver to stop for a pedestrian waiting on the sidewalk at an unmarked intersection to cross the street. It’s the pedestrian’s responsibility to yield to approaching traffic and proceed across the intersection when it’s safe to do so.

“Jaywalking: yes, in those instances where a pedestrian would be crossing the roadway between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation.  This is more applicable to urban settings than to most situations in unincorporated Kitsap County, as there may be significant distance between adjacent intersections with traffic control signals.

“Pedestrian safety recommendation: Take the extra time and steps to walk to the nearest signal-controlled intersection. It doesn’t take that much time.  It’s inherently much safer than attempting to cross five lanes of traffic where drivers are not expecting a pedestrian to cross and visibility of the pedestrian (by drivers) may be hampered.  Go with the signal… it’s in your favor!”

5 thoughts on “Is jaywalking still illegal?

  1. Great information, thank you.

    A somewhat related issue that I encounter all the time around here is when vehicles stop in the middle of the road to let other vehicles enter the road (or for oncoming traffic to turn left in front of them). They think they are being courteous but really they are creating a dangerous hazard. A couple of months ago a vehicle in front of me stopped abruptly to let another vehicle enter traffic. I almost got rear ended because the vehicle behind me wasn’t expecting a sudden stop in the middle of a block.

    The driver in front of me presumably thought he was being courteous by stopping to let someone in, but in reality this is dangerous and discourteous to the line of traffic behind him that are all forced to stop suddenly.

    I live in Silverdale and even during periods of heavy traffic (afternoons, around the Christmas shopping season, during construction, etc.) there will always eventually be a gap in traffic that will allow vehicles to safely enter the roadway. We have lights on most intersections and when you are between intersections, you may have to wait until a nearby light turns red but traffic will eventually clear up enough to let people enter the roadway safely.

    1. I also see this all the time when I drive to Kingston or Bainbridge Island. It is almost as bad as the drivers who drive 5-10 mph under the speed limit and then brake check you because you are following close behind because they are driving slow and then there is a ton a traffic getting to the ferries and they are getting more backed up and these people act like they own the place and that they can do what ever they want and the local law enforcement does nothing. I have been brake checked in Kingston right in front of the Sheriff and he did nothing but waved at the driver in front of me. So I usually wave back at the driver who is a douche but without a full open hand. drive safe

  2. “Essentially, if the pedestrian is crossing in front of them, drivers need to wait until the pedestrian has reached the centerline or center turn lane before proceeding.”

    I don’t think this is correct. The center turn lane is “within” one lane of the half of the roadway. Therefore, a driver cannot legally proceed until the pedestrian has left the center turn lane and is crossing on the other half of the roadway.

    “A pedestrian who wishes to cross Kitsap Mall Boulevard, at this intersection, is required to wait until approaching traffic is clear and it is safe to proceed across the roadway, per RCW 46.61.240(1).”

    I would also question the accuracy of this statement. There is nothing in the law that says pedestrians must yield to traffic at a crosswalk and wait for traffic to be clear. In fact, the law says, “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.” (46.61.240(1))

    Notice that the law says pedestrians must yield at locations OTHER than a marked or unmarked crosswalk. A pedestrian is within their right to start across a crosswalk, marked or unmarked, as long as there is enough room for vehicles to stop safely for them (RCW46.61.235(2)). It is the legal responsibility of the vehicle driver to yield to the pedestrian.

  3. What about using a crosswalk with a “DON’T WALK” light or symbol? Is it legal to cross if traffic is clear?

    1. No. From RCW 46.61.060 (1)
      (2) Steady or flashing DON’T WALK or hand symbol—Pedestrians facing such signal shall not enter the roadway. Vehicle operators shall stop for pedestrians who have begun to cross the roadway before the display of either signal as required by RCW 46.61.235(1).

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