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Ask A Cop: What are the laws governing crosswalks?

(A Lake Oswego police officer answers readers’ questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call staff reporter Cliff Newell at 503 636-1281 ext. 105 or send an email to cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.)

Can someone explain to me what the crosswalk laws are? I just moved to Oregon from New York and I’m confused.

SGT. CLAYTON SIMONOregon’s crosswalk laws can seem a bit confusing for both pedestrians and drivers.

In this state, crosswalks are any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere that is specifically marked for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings. Pedestrians can enter the intersection on the walk signal or when a similarly designated sign indicates it is clear to proceed, but if the sign indicates they should wait or stop, they cannot enter the crosswalk.

If there are no markings, an “unmarked crosswalk” is the place where a “marked crosswalk” would be placed if someone decided to paint crosswalk lines. Even though it is “invisible,” an unmarked crosswalk incorporates the same legal rights as a marked crosswalk. If one looks at a traditional four-corner intersection, the unmarked crosswalks connect each corner; in general, think of it as the straight lines directly across from you from one location to the identical location on the opposite side.

As far as what a pedestrian is supposed to do at traffic control devices (ORS 814.010), simply follow the direction of the signs. Walk when it indicates you can walk, and wait or stop when it indicates you should wait or stop. Pretty simple. If there is not a pedestrian-control device at an intersection controlled by a traffic light, cross the intersection in the marked or unmarked crosswalk on the green lights and remain stopped on the yellow and red lights.

Keep in mind that ORS 814.040 states that pedestrians must yield to a vehicle in the roadway. They cannot leave a curb or other place of safety and move into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to create a hazard. If you are creating a hazard between you and a vehicle by moving quickly into the roadway, I am going to guess the possible ticket you could receive would be the least of your concerns. When in doubt, wait and stay safe.

As for drivers and what to do at crosswalks with pedestrians: If you break it down into basically two movements — drivers traveling straight or drivers making a turn at an intersection — the requirements become a bit clearer. When a driver is traveling straight at an intersection where pedestrians are proceeding in accordance with a traffic-control device (ORS 814.010) or crossing the roadway in a crosswalk as defined in ORS 801.220, the driver must let the pedestrian clear both the lane of travel the driver is in AND the adjacent lane. Think of it as having a whole second lane as a buffer between the driver and the pedestrian.

When a driver is making a turn at an intersection where the pedestrians are proceeding in accordance with a traffic control device — like a crosswalk sign — they must ensure the pedestrian is clear of the lane they wish to turn into and then wait until the pedestrian is six feet from that lane before making their turn. However, if the intersection does not have a traffic control device under which a pedestrian may proceed as noted in ORS 814.010, the driver has to ensure the pedestrian is clear of the lane they are turning into AND the adjacent lane. Think of these as intersections with crosswalks, but without electronic signs.

The most important thing to remember for both of the above scenarios is that a driver must stop AND remain stopped for the pedestrian. If you have any further questions regarding this topic, please contact us at our non-emergency number (503) 635-0238.

— Sergeant Clayton Simon

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