Crosswalk safety: Drivers must stop

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK - KBFX) -- A concerned Bakersfield mother complains drivers just don't stop at a crosswalk in her neighborhood. She wonders if they just don't know the law, and asks Eyewitness News to help educate drivers.

"You've got to just start going, and hope they stop and see you," Elizabeth McKinley complained. "Or they'll swerve around you."

She had just tried getting across Olive Drive at Teakwood. That took a lot of waiting. And then she scurried across with a toddler by the hand, and holding her two-year-old.

The crosswalk at the T intersection is marked with white lines. Approaching the crossing to the west on Olive there are two bright green signs warning that's up ahead.

Several cars had ignored her, as she stepped off the curb a foot or two. They whizzed by at a fast clip.

Neighbor Roy Mushrush sees the same thing all the time. "There isn't one out of ten that will stop if there's somebody standing there trying to get across," he said.

McKinley says drivers just don't know the laws. "I wonder if they even know they're supposed to stop," she said.

CHP officer Robert Rodriguez shares her concern. "Unfortunately, a lot of drivers don't know the law," he told Eyewitness News. But, the law is clear.

"Whenever a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, the vehicle must yield the right-of-way to that pedestrian," he explained. The pedestrian has to be in the process of trying to get across.

A reporter tried to get head north in the crosswalk. Dozens of cars roared past. Only one stopped. That was a Pepsi truck.

Actually, a situation like that can be one of the worst dangers at crosswalks. The problem is when one car stops for the pedestrian, but other vehicles keep going.

"While in the process of driving around, they can crash - or run into that pedestrian that's legally within that crosswalk," Officer Rodriguez said. "And that happens."

But, too many cars never stop. "I stopped the other day, and there was a woman that crossed, and there were people screaming at her," McKinley said. "Just yelling at her to get out of the road. And that's ridiculous."

Another neighbor said he sees the same thing. Bud Fraser also uses his electric scooter to cross Olive Drive sometimes, and worries about traffic - especially since he can't go all that fast.

"I ride my scooter over to get stuff from the store, and you'd better look out there first before you go across," he said.

We asked if drivers have to stop until a pedestrian is all the way across. Rodriguez said drivers only have to wait until it's clear in the lane they're going in.

"Once that pedestrian has passed, and it's safe, then the vehicle can continue through the intersection," he said.

McKinley has been worried about the crosswalk she uses, she's also concerned because of the recent number of local accidents injuring pedestrians. And she's really afraid for what will happen once kids are out of school for the summer.

"I hope that (drivers) realize they're not supposed to just keep going," she said.

The Highway Patrol officer agrees, but also has advice for anyone walking or riding a bike.

"Be defensive, as well," Rodriguez said. "Don't' expect that every vehicle is going to stop for you."

But, the bottom line is the message to drivers. "As a motorist, you have to be attentive. And if you're coming up to that crosswalk, and if there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk, you must yield the right-of-way to that pedestrian."