When Must Traffic Stop for a Pedestrian in New Jersey?

It’s been several years since New Jersey changed its pedestrian safety laws, and yet pedestrian accidents continue to plague the Garden State. The problem of pedestrian fatalities is particularly urgent in New Jersey, where in 2014, 31 percent of all traffic fatalities were pedestrians, as opposed to the national average of 14 percent. Part of the problem may be the increase in “distracted walking” among pedestrians who stray off the curb while engaged with their smartphone or iPod, but it’s also clear that many motorists don’t understand their responsibilities when a pedestrian is crossing the street.

New Jersey law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in a marked crosswalk. Unfortunately, too many motorists still adhere to the old “yield” rule. Here is the difference: under the old yield rule, a driver could slow down to allow the pedestrian to pass, and then continue through the intersection when the pedestrian was in the next lane. The yield rule did not require a complete stop. The law today requires a full stop, and the car must remain stationary until the pedestrian has crossed the roadway.

If there is no marked crosswalk, the old yield rule is still in effect. If a pedestrian jaywalks, crossing in the middle of a block or against the light, drivers technically have the right of way, but are required to exercise due care for the pedestrian’s safety.

Violators are subject to a two-point moving violation and a fine of $200 or up to 15 days of community service. Pedestrians can be cited for jaywalking at a cost of $54.

Enforcement of the stop law varies throughout the state. Some municipalities require that a pedestrian be engaged in crossing the street before a driver is required to stop. Others will cite a driver if a pedestrian was at the corner preparing to cross. Is a pedestrian who is waiting to cross or ready to cross already “crossing” within the meaning of the law? The answer seems to depend on which town they’re in. Finally, a driver cannot be cited for failing to stop if the pedestrian moved to cross the road so suddenly that the driver did not have a reasonable opportunity to stop.

Pedestrian safety depends on motorists and pedestrians exercising due care and following the law at all times. If you are injured in a pedestrian accident in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey, Seigel Law is ready to help. Contact us online or call 201.444.4000 today for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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