Generally speaking, automobiles are required by law to yield to pedestrians crossing the road in Minnesota. That doesn’t mean that pedestrians are totally free of obligations and can just cross wherever and whenever they want, however. Both parties are required to understand the rules of the road and exercise reasonable caution, and pedestrians can be fined or found liable for crossing the street illegally.
The Basic Pedestrian Safety Laws
The laws outlining how both drivers and pedestrians should handle their interactions on the road can be found in Chapter 169, Section 21 of the Minnesota transportation statutes. Generally speaking, everyone is required to follow appropriate traffic signals, and when intersections have lights there is usually no problem. Things get contentious at crossings where there is not a light regulating traffic, and this is where the greatest potential for pedestrian accidents is.
Drivers are always required to yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks, even when there is no sign or light. For their own safety, pedestrians should be very careful at crossings without a light or sign, however. Drivers are often not paying attention at these crossings and do not notice crosswalk markings until it is too late to slow down. They may also not be aware of the law and will attempt to belligerently barrel through the crosswalk thinking they have the right of way.
Pedestrians, in turn, have an obligation to not leave the curb if an oncoming vehicle is too close to safely come to a stop. This holds true even at marked crossings. Pedestrians should always look for oncoming traffic and not move into the road until there is more than adequate time for oncoming vehicles to see them and slow down.
Outside of marked crossings, vehicles always have the right of way. Pedestrians are allowed to cross roads in the middle so long as there are no oncoming vehicles and they are not between two adjacent intersections with functioning traffic lights.
Naturally, this doesn’t give drivers legal carte blanche to hit pedestrians who are illegally in the middle of the road. Drivers are still required by state law to exercise due care at all times, always attempting to avoid collisions and to bring their presence to the attention of the person in the road by honking their horn.
First-time violations of any of these regulations is a misdemeanor, even for pedestrians who are jaywalking. If the same violation is committed within one year, it becomes a gross misdemeanor along with any other violations of this nature.
Fines and Punishments
Both state and local police periodically monitor busy intersections to verify that vehicles are properly yielding to pedestrians. Failure to yield is usually only met with a $128 ticket for the first offense. Failure to yield to schoolchildren or to follow the instructions of a crossing guard ups the fine to $250, however.
Where drivers will find themselves in legal hot water is if they hit a pedestrian, even if they technically had the right of way. In the event of an accidental collision, it is vitally important to not flee the scene. While a driver might potentially not be found liable if the pedestrian was outside of a legal crossing and did not give them adequate time to stop, all of that is out the window if the driver flees the scene. Under state statute 169.09, a driver’s license is automatically suspended for failure to report a collision. Drivers are allowed to bring someone to the hospital if they are in need of emergency care without waiting for law enforcement to show up, but they must notify law enforcement of the accident and their location as soon as is feasible.
Leaving the scene without notice greatly exacerbates a driver’s legal troubles, making it much tougher to successfully defend themselves. Accidents that result in the death of a pedestrian can lead to as much as three years in jail and a fine of $5,000. An accident that results in serious bodily harm brings a potential consequence of two years in jail and a $4,000 fine. Any amount of bodily harm, no matter how minor, can put the driver on the hook for a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. If you feel you may need the representation of an injury attorney, contact us today to learn how we can help you.