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Editorial: Put pedestrians first

A reminder to motorists—it is your responsibility to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks!

It’s been said motorists are ignoring walkers and bikers in crosswalks near schools. Not only are these motorists ignoring the crosswalk laws, but sometimes ignoring the directions of adult crossing guards at busy intersections.

There may be some serious inconsiderate and dangerous tactics in play. If police hand out a few tickets, the problem might be solved!

Ellsworth’s business districts in both west and east ends are very busy with pedestrian traffic and it’s the responsibility of drivers to observe pedestrian laws. But there’s pedestrian traffic in many other areas of the community, including near the local schools. And keep in mind not all pedestrian paths have marked crosswalks. Drivers must yield whether a crossing is marked or unmarked, staffed or unstaffed.

Regardless of what part of Wisconsin law one studies, there’s a message coming through loud and clear: the operator of a vehicle shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian, or to a person who’s riding a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device.

In the case of an intersection with a school crossing guard, state law says: Every operator of a motor vehicle approaching a school crossing which is controlled by an adult school crossing guard appointed under s.120.13 (31) or 349.215 shall follow the directions of the school crossing guard. If directed by the school crossing guard to stop, the operator shall stop the vehicle not less than 10 feet nor more than 30 feet from the school crossing and shall remain stopped until the school crossing guard directs the operator to proceed.

Pedestrians also have some responsibility: No pedestrian, bicyclist or rider of an electric personal assistive mobility device shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run or ride into the path of a vehicle which is so close it is difficult for the operator of the vehicle to yield.

The bottom line is motorists must stay alert, watch for pedestrians and yield to pedestrians. Pedestrians must also stay alert and not jump in front of a car, assuming the motorist has the right of way. They shouldn’t assume every vehicle will shop when they step off the curb—as the saying goes, you don’t want to be dead right. Look for eye contact with the vehicle driver as you cross the street with a car approaching.

Pedestrian safety should be front-and-center in everyone’s mind. We encourage all motorists to get into the habit of yielding to pedestrians. First, it’s the right thing to do; second, it’s the law!