Are You Fully Protected Using Amarillo’s Crosswalks?
It's widely known that if there is a crosswalk, pedestrians have the right of way and a vehicle must at minimum yield for that person so they can cross. That isn't just here in Texas, that's all over the country.
Yes, I said yield, not stop. Most people have a tendency to slow down, almost to a crawl, then as that person is past the point where their car would pass, they head through the crosswalk.
Back in 2017 in Missouri City, Texas, a woman and her son were going through a crosswalk when they were hit by a car as they were walking through it. The mother was sadly killed, and her son sustained serious injuries that left him confined to a wheelchair for a bit more than three months.
The driver was ultimately charged with criminally negligent homicide, but was never indicted and was let off with just a $50 fine for failing to yield. At the time, there was no law on the Texas books that allowed criminal charges for something like this.
Now there is a law in effect, and it's called the Lisa Torry Smith Act. A driver can now be criminally charged and found guilty if they do not stop at a crosswalk. Yes, yielding is no longer acceptable when you see a person in the crosswalk. You must come to a complete stop.
As a pedestrian, you should feel this is your safe space to move around. Whether you're walking, cycling, whatever it may be, this is an area that says it's safe to cross and the cars around you will stop as you do so. We have a lot of crosswalk areas in Amarillo, and they're in different areas such as neighborhoods, or even major roads.
Just because there is a crosswalk though, it doesn't mean that you can just barrel through it at any given time. This is where a potential "loophole" for lack of a better term exists in that law.
As a pedestrian, you CANNOT step down from a curb to use the crosswalk if you haven't given the driver a chance to react and come to a full stop, or at least yield. So for example, say a car is 10 feet away from the crosswalk travelling at 35 mph. That is simply not enough time for the vehicle to slow down or come to a stop. If you don't give that time for the driver to react and you get hit, the driver stands a good chance of not being at fault.
Bottom line is this, any vehicle MUST give you the opportunity to cross the street at any crosswalk. They have to come to a complete stop. However, you don't have 100% ownership to just cross whenever because the crosswalk is there. Don't cross unless the vehicle coming has ample time to slow down and stop for you.
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Gallery Credit: Billy Jenkins