This is a piece I wrote for the local newspaper back on July 10th, 2012 after our summer family vacation. I'm posting it today, because of a recent social media conversation in which it became apparent that this situation is universally hated by both drivers and pedestrians and is potentially more dangerous than the previous Pennsylvania pedestrian laws.
I thought it was worth a revisit to see how things have progressed since Pennsylvania adopted the New Jersey style pedestrian laws a few years ago.
7/10/12 - Editorial to the Press Enterprise Newspaper:
If I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it: New Jersey has UNTAUGHT people how to walk!
With the April 1st, 2010 passing of New Jersey Statute 39:4-36 our wise Leaders have relieved all pedestrians from any modicum of personal responsibility or common sense.
You see, NJ Statute 39:4-36 says the following: “The driver of a vehicle must stop and stay stopped for a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk...”
This part sounds semi-logical to me, but then the law goes on into absurdity: “, but shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection...
According to NJ, Failure to obey this law results in:
- 2 POINTS
- $200 FINE (plus court costs)
- 15 DAYS COMMUNITY SERVICE
- INSURANCE SURCHARGES
The full law can be reviewed here: http://www.nj.gov/oag/hts/pedestrian.html
So in practice, what this means to NJ pedestrians it that they now think they have THE RIGHT to simply walk, run, bike or skateboard right out into traffic! I’m sure this is not how the law was intended, but as we see with law after law: the rule of unintended consequences always trumps good intentions.
I saw this in practice during the Independence Day holiday. My family decided to vacation at Cape May, NJ. We stayed in a place that was on the corner of a main road and a side road. Our place had a porch that I sat on during my morning coffee. As I sat there, I watched in amazement each day as people walked, skateboarded and bicycled DIRECTLY OUT INTO MOVING TRAFFIC. And even more amazingly, the people that did this then got irate and screamed at the vehicles that were lawfully traveling on the main road obeying the speed limit (or maybe even driving slower than the speed limit).
I only mention this experience and law because I am beginning to see PA going the same way. If you want to see some confusion about pedestrian right of way laws around here, simply travel Red Lane in Danville near the Geisinger Campus, Bloomsburg’s Main Street or travel on Mill Street in Danville near the pedestrian crossing. You will witness the same types of confusion and bad decision making by people.
Regardless of state laws, I would like to offer the following numbers to anyone reading this:
- The average weight of an American is 191 lbs.
- The average weight of a bicycle is 30 lbs.
- The average weight of an American car is 4,000± lbs.
Regardless of laws, you have to respect physics. There is a such a thing as being “Dead Right”.
In Pennsylvania, the rules for pedestrians are dictated by Title 75 (shown below). A few years back, Pennsylvania adopted the same pedestrian walkway laws as New Jersey had adopted years previous - which were the subject of my newspaper article.
Below are the numbers and statistics for Pennsylvania pedestrian accidents over the past few years. Take a look, and see if you can draw your own conclusions about the effiectiveness of the new laws and the consequences of releasing pedestrians from any responsibility whatsoever, when choosing to cross the street.