Drivers may be familiar with the idea that they have to stop for pedestrians crossing the road at marked crosswalks, but many do not realize that they are also required to yield right-of-way to pedestrians at ‘unmarked crosswalks’. In New Jersey, as in most states, all intersections of streets are normally considered to represent crosswalks, even when there are no painted crosswalk lines. At these ‘unmarked crosswalks’, it is legal for pedestrians to cross. The relevant statute reads as follows:
39:4-36. a. The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except at crosswalks when the movement of traffic is being regulated by police officers or traffic control signals…
That means that pedestrians are not ‘jaywalking’ at such crossings, and honking your horn or angrily gesturing at them is entirely unjustified. The pedestrian is still required to exercise “due care for his safety”, therefore cannot lawfully step out in front of a car when a driver would not have time to stop. However, the law further specifies that in the event of a collision at an unmarked crosswalk, “there shall be a permissive inference that the driver did not exercise due care for the safety of the pedestrian“.
Summary: drive safely and attentively on roads where pedestrians may be present. The law gives pedestrians the right to cross the road at most intersections, and requires drivers to allow them to do so.
I both drive and walk in Princeton and try to watch out for pedestrians at crossings, but it can be hard to spot them. I think the relevant authorities could help to make crossings safer by 1) Better lighting – at night it is impossible to see anyone until you are too close to safely stop. 2) Removing street furniture around crossings – if there are 4 posts and a trash can it is hard to spot a pedestrian waiting to cross. I am not trying to make excuses, sticking to the speed limit is definitely the best thing you can do to improve pedestrian safety, and that is something we can all try to do everyday.
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