Brown County Browser: Pedestrians have the right of way

The New Ulm Police Department recently posted information clarifying which driver has the right-of-way at uncontrolled intersections. I thought the information was particularly useful as I have met several people while driving in New Ulm who apparently never learned this information or who had forgotten! Thank you to the NUPD for getting this information out there.

This led me to think about all of the issues my office and I have experienced with drivers who are also apparently unaware that pedestrians have the right-of-way when crossing the street. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have had to stop suddenly while crossing the street (sometimes in the snow or rain) while an oblivious driver blows right through the crosswalk in front of me. In fact, one of our Probation agents literally had to jump into the median to avoid being run down by a driver at the intersection of Center and State Street.

At first I sort of joked that there seems to be an unwritten rule in New Ulm that “if I don’t make eye contact with you, I don’t have to stop for you when you’re in the crosswalk.” I’ve actually experienced drivers, who I just saw looking at me, look up into their rearview mirror as they blow through the crosswalk without stopping. I hate to break it to those folks, but when you plow into a group of people walking through the intersection, it isn’t going to be much of a defense to say “well, I didn’t see them because I was staring into my rearview mirror.”

We also get the quintessential “Minnesota Nice” in New Ulm where folks will smile and wave at you as they blow through the crosswalk in their dry, warm car, while you are standing in the snow, wind or rain, simply trying to get across the street. We tend to joke about it at the office and it really would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. It is simply a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed in one of our crosswalks simply because people don’t yield as they are supposed to.

The law in Minnesota provides that all drivers must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk and the driver shall not proceed forward until all pedestrians are completely out of the driver’s lane of travel. I would suggest that if you are so late for wherever you are going that you can’t stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk, please just leave the house earlier! We all want New Ulm to be a place where people feel safe outside getting exercise. It starts with our crosswalks. Please yield to pedestrians.

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