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Thread: The Ethics of Breaking Traffic Laws

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    dasgeh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mstone View Post
    but, if you get hit, it will be your fault. I'd be much happier with a "stop" standard, but try to get that through the general assembly.
    The yield v. stop is not what opens the door to assigning fault to the pedestrian -- it's the "in disregard of approaching traffic" part

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    The yield v. stop is not what opens the door to assigning fault to the pedestrian -- it's the "in disregard of approaching traffic" part
    But isn't that a self-correcting problem? Besides, there's probably a good reason why this line is there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by f148vr View Post
    But isn't that a self-correcting problem? Besides, there's probably a good reason why this line is there.
    The reason why that line is there is to prevent pedestrians from stepping off a curb into a street when a car is 20 yards away and does not have time to react appropriately. See the below definition for yield (grabbed from the VA DMV website):

    You must slow down as you come to the intersection. Be prepared to stop. Let any vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists safely pass before you proceed.
    This means that as a driver, I can slow my speed to allow the pedestrian to cross versus coming to a complete stop. As a pedestrian, that means that I can cross when I give approaching vehicles adequate time to slow or stop before reaching the crosswalk. That does NOT mean that a pedestrian can dash into the crosswalk when a vehicle is 20 yards away traveling at 40 mph. It also does not mean that a pedestrian would be found at fault if s/he crosses when a vehicle has adequate stopping/slowing distance but is distracted and does not react appropriately.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    The yield v. stop is not what opens the door to assigning fault to the pedestrian -- it's the "in disregard of approaching traffic" part
    With no stop standard, there's no practical reason for a driver to even slow down since the "yield" requirement only applies if the pedestrian is in front of the car, and the yield requirement can be met by changing speed, changing lanes, etc. When can a pedestrian ever be sure that the driver will actually yield in the absence of a stop? If you can't be sure that the driver will actually yield, you're "disregarding", right? The only way you can really tell if it's safe to cross is if 1) there are no cars or 2) the car in the single traffic lane is stopped. Without a stop standard, the law basically just gives pedestrians the finger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunyata View Post
    This means that as a driver, I can slow my speed to allow the pedestrian to cross versus coming to a complete stop. As a pedestrian, that means that I can cross when I give approaching vehicles adequate time to slow or stop before reaching the crosswalk. That does NOT mean that a pedestrian can dash into the crosswalk when a vehicle is 20 yards away traveling at 40 mph. It also does not mean that a pedestrian would be found at fault if s/he crosses when a vehicle has adequate stopping/slowing distance but is distracted and does not react appropriately.
    Do you have statistics for how often drivers are cited for not slowing down enough to stop at crosswalks if necessary?* Do you have statistics for how many pedestrians that are hit in intersections have seen a driver cited because they didn't yield even though there was enough time to do so?** There is a very big gap between how the law should work and how it is actually applied, and the bias is not toward the more vulnerable road users. Anyone who talks about the "disregard" standard just being there to acknowledge the laws of physics is naive--it's a loophole that for the most part makes it impossible to hold drivers responsible for their driving near pedestrians (regardless of how it "should" be interpreted, that's how it is).

    * around here, the average speed near our crosswalks is significantly above the posted speed limit. the police do approximately zero enforcement because they have more neighborhoods complaining than they have officers. we generally get a couple of speed enforcement days per year, generally at mid-block by a hill, not actually at the crosswalk for practical policing reasons.

    ** the police response to this situation has been to tell everyone to "be really careful crossing the street". we get crossing guards for 40 minutes or so per day, because everyone knows that's the only time kids should be crossing the street. one of the crossing guards was hit by a car. I have never once seen police out writing tickets for people driving dangerously at any of the crossings. it would be a waste of time for them to do so because there's no enforceable legal standard for driving dangerously at a crossing (remember--the driver isn't actually required to stop, so a cop can only make a ticket stick if he can either 1) read the driver's mind and convince the judge that he properly read the driver's mind or 2) walk in front of the car and get hit and then convince the judge that he didn't "disregard"). like so many other terrible laws in VA, the police won't bother attempting enforcement because they don't think they can get citations to stick, and the general assembly won't even consider changing the law because the car-first committee chairmen claim there's no problem because nobody's even being cited under the current law.

  6. #46
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    Do you have statistics for how often drivers are cited for not slowing down enough to stop at crosswalks if necessary?* Do you have statistics for how many pedestrians that are hit in intersections have seen a driver cited because they didn't yield even though there was enough time to do so?

    I don't have data for that, but at our last BPAC meeting I am pretty sure Lt May mentioned a driver getting a "failure to yield" citation after a collision with a ped. Pretty sure it happens. Might be a good thing to gather data on though, if its not already done.

    * around here, the average speed near our crosswalks is significantly above the posted speed limit.

    Which is why it is still so important to change the infrastructure to discourage speeding. The crux of VZ, IMO.


    the police do approximately zero enforcement because they have more neighborhoods complaining than they have officers. we generally get a couple of speed enforcement days per year, generally at mid-block by a hill, not actually at the crosswalk for practical policing reasons.

    I am glad that Alexandria police are increasing the number of traffic patrol officers, as well as encouraging all officers to enforce traffic, IIRC. IIUC they are even going to be doing some campaigns in which officers in plain clothes will be stepping into the street at crosswalks.

    it would be a waste of time for them to do so because there's no enforceable legal standard for driving dangerously at a crossing (remember--the driver isn't actually required to stop, so a cop can only make a ticket stick if he can either 1) read the driver's mind and convince the judge that he properly read the driver's mind or 2) walk in front of the car and get hit and then convince the judge that he didn't "disregard"). like so many other terrible laws in VA, the police won't bother attempting enforcement because they don't think they can get citations to stick,

    AFAICT Alexandria police do not (now) believe that (see above) but we will need to monitor actual implementation.

    and the general assembly won't even consider changing the law because the car-first committee chairmen claim there's no problem because nobody's even being cited under the current law.


    Certainly changing the attitudes in the GA would help on a lot of things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lordofthemark View Post
    Do you have statistics for how often drivers are cited for not slowing down enough to stop at crosswalks if necessary?* Do you have statistics for how many pedestrians that are hit in intersections have seen a driver cited because they didn't yield even though there was enough time to do so?

    I don't have data for that, but at our last BPAC meeting I am pretty sure Lt May mentioned a driver getting a "failure to yield" citation after a collision with a ped. Pretty sure it happens. Might be a good thing to gather data on though, if its not already done.
    I'm sure it happens. The question is, how often? If it's rare enough that the spokesman can talk about this one time that it happened, probably not enough.

    it would be a waste of time for them to do so because there's no enforceable legal standard for driving dangerously at a crossing (remember--the driver isn't actually required to stop, so a cop can only make a ticket stick if he can either 1) read the driver's mind and convince the judge that he properly read the driver's mind or 2) walk in front of the car and get hit and then convince the judge that he didn't "disregard"). like so many other terrible laws in VA, the police won't bother attempting enforcement because they don't think they can get citations to stick,

    AFAICT Alexandria police do not (now) believe that (see above) but we will need to monitor actual implementation.
    If they actually start making citations stick doing that I would love to see it. Please update if it does so I can share with FCPD.

    Certainly changing the attitudes in the GA would help on a lot of things.
    Can't change the attitudes, have to change the committee chairs.

  8. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by mstone View Post
    I'm sure it happens. The question is, how often? If it's rare enough that the spokesman can talk about this one time that it happened, probably not enough.
    Fortunately its not every day we have a car hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This was part of the monthly review of such collisions. Citations during enforcement campaigns, as opposed to citations when a pedestrian is actually hit, would be something else again.

    As for making it stick, we only get reports from police on the citations they gave. We don't get reports from the Commonwealth's Attorney on how they were resolved in court. I am pretty sure the only time we really hear about final resolution is in the case of fatals or near fatals, where the community is very focused. Given all the other things advocates have to do in Alexandria, I doubt gathering info on the disposition of citations is going to happen any time soon, unless someone wants to volunteer to do that.
    Last edited by lordofthemark; 04-19-2018 at 09:54 AM.

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    FWIW, Maryland at least does periodic crackdowns on drivers failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. See, for example:
    https://wtop.com/montgomery-county/2...lice-campaign/

    Not sure if VA or DC do the same.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lordofthemark View Post
    Fortunately it's not every day we have a car hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
    Depends on what you mean by "we." In the DMV about one pedestrian is killed per week by a driver, so I would assume some are being hit pretty much every day with various degrees of injury.

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