It’s been a difficult year for Minneapolis pedestrians, with a string of accidents causing injury and even loss of life. In downtown Minneapolis, several pedestrians have been struck while crossing the street. With the warm weather leading to so much pedestrian traffic, both downtown and in the outer lying areas of Minneapolis, it’s important to stress the importance of safety. Whether you’re the pedestrian or the driver, you need to be aware of everything around you at all times to avoid an accident. Zach Bauer and Andrew Davick of Meshbesher & Spence recently stopped by KROC AM to discuss pedestrian safety
Pedestrian Crosswalks and Drivers
Tell us a little about why pedestrian safety is on your mind lately. We like to go to lunch downtown. The first time an incident happened that caught our attention, we stopped at a crosswalk with the “walk” light blinking, only to see cars barreling through on the left side, putting pedestrians in danger. And then a second time, we’re stopped, again for somebody in a crosswalk, and the person behind us had to slam on the brakes because they were on their phone. People simply aren’t paying attention at all.
The walkers sometimes don’t pay attention, either. Yes, fortunately in this case, that person who was crossing did pay attention but when you got the flashing lights, that should be obvious.
Especially if other cars are stopped. It is hard to understand. First of all, you’ve got these big flashing lights on Second Street and if you’ve ever driven on Second Street, you’d know that they’re there. It’s pretty obvious. Why somebody would not see that and stop is beyond imagining. Most of the time, it’s just distracted drivers or people not paying attention or who are arguably ignorant of the law.
What is the law on this? Obviously there are civil ramifications for striking somebody in a crosswalk, but there are also some criminal ramifications for it, especially if there’s some type of great bodily harm or death that results from it. There have been some changes in law recently where there’s actually been a special part of the reckless driving statute that’s been carved out to deal specifically with loss of life or great bodily harm. It could be under a different statute called criminal vehicular operation, but it’s a gross misdemeanor level offense, so it has some criminal penalties that attach to it as well.
How does the state determine someone deserves criminal punishment for it? One of the things that the state has to show is that there’s kind of a conscious disregard of safety, but I can tell you that the flashing lights and blowing through those, you probably hit that level. It probably goes beyond just pure negligence. So people just need to slow down, especially in those areas, because there are occasions when people who are walking and some pedestrians are in the crosswalk, but they’re not paying attention. It usually falls on the driver to make sure that they’re the ones who are in charge. They’re the ones who are operating a vehicle that can possibly hurt somebody.
If a police officer sees somebody do that or I’m stopped for people who are waiting to go into the crosswalk and there are a couple of cars that go past, what kind of citation does that person get for doing that? Probably a failure to drive with due care, very similar to what a speeding citation might be. I anticipate that’s what they would get. It wouldn’t be a cheap ticket. You’re talking about probably $300 when everything’s said and done, very similar to what sometimes we see with texting tickets and so forth. It’s not worth it.
You have to think about bicycles, as well. Same thing. But it does go both ways. There are times you’ll see a pack of bicycle riders all together. You’re coming over a hill and there are four or five of them together abreast. Ultimately on the civil side, you’re looking at issues like comparative fault. Whether you’re a bicyclist, a motorist, or a pedestrian, you have to also look out for yourself and protect yourself against some of those potential issues. So as an example, when we were driving on Second Street, you got the car barreling on our left-hand side and it’s going to clearly hit that pedestrian, you have to make sure that, as a pedestrian, you’re paying attention and watching. The old saying that we tell our kids, “Before you cross the street, look both ways” still applies. You still have to pay attention.
The key is for everyone to pay attention. Be aware, people are crossing the street. There are a lot more walkers out there it seems these days. I think they’ve had 65 car-pedestrian incidents up in St. Paul already this year. Six deaths. And it’s not all because they’re texting and walking, although some of them are, but a lot of it is the drivers aren’t paying attention, just that same way. Pedestrians and drivers should do everything they can to keep themselves and others safe. If you have questions about road safety or other legal topics, contact the attorneys at Meshbesher & Spence, (888)728-9866.