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home : opinion : editorial August 16, 2017

8/9/2017 9:44:00 AM
Valuable safety feature

We really shouldn't need a big plastic crosswalk sign to warn motorists they must stop for crossing pedestrians in marked crosswalks.
However, there it is - a shiny new crosswalk sign on River Road at 13th Street. The message is simple enough: "State Law, stop for pedestrians within crosswalk." There are even photos of a pedestrian and stop sign, to remove all doubt.
Yet we have a hunch there will be folks who argue, "He didn't quite have his toe in the crosswalk when I drove through." Others will speed up, as if it's a contest to see who can win the race to the crosswalk.
By our count, this is the fourth such crosswalk warning in Windom. Others were placed at Windom Area High School, Winfair Elementary and Island Park. The latest sign was purchased for $500 by the Windom Development Department. A grant through Community Wellness Partners covered 100 percent of the cost.
"Through our Active Living plan, we identified problem intersections," said Development Director Drew Hage. "That was one of the problem intersections."
Chief Scott Peterson is a supporter of the crosswalk warning signs.
"I think the signs have been effective," Peterson said. "They create more visibility for cross walks and provide an instant reminder.
"The Square is also an area that we want to be pedestrian-friendly. We are looking at potentially doing a project on it for the downtown area."
The timing is good for the sign's arrival. Two major pedestrian events are fast-approaching - the Cottonwood County Fair and the start of school. Peterson expects to see heavy foot traffic during the fair, which begins Wednesday (Aug. 16).
He noted that the department's new bicycle patrol will likely keep an eye out for violators in those crosswalk areas. On its website, MnDOT offers these key points regarding the state crosswalk law:
• Drivers must stop for crossing pedestrians at marked crosswalks, plus those without crosswalks or stop lights.
• Pedestrians must obey traffic signs and signals at intersections that have them.
• Vehicles stopped for pedestrians can proceed once the pedestrian has completely crossed the lane in front of the stopped vehicle.
• Pedestrians must not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is approaching and it is impossible for the driver to stop.
• When a vehicle is stopped at an intersection to allow pedestrians to cross the roadway, drivers of other vehicles approaching from the rear must not pass the stopped vehicle.
• Failure to obey the law is a misdemeanor. A second violation within one year is a gross misdemeanor.
The crosswalk warning signs are clearly effective when used in carefully targeted areas. If motorists and pedestrians simply use common sense, we can all avoid legal and injury consequences.
      - Rahn Larson

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