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Motorists: to yield or not to yield to pedestrians?

New Jersey maintains a set of traffic regulations that are designed to protect the safety of motorists and pedestrians. However, some rules are updated occasionally in order to promote safety. When laws are updated, despite being promoted by the state, some motorists remain blissfully unaware. Being aware of these changes is crucial for drivers and especially pedestrians, who can sustain serious injuries or even lose their lives in a pedestrian accident. So what does a New Jersey driver need to know when it comes to the state's updated laws about pedestrians?

In the past, motorists were required to yield for a pedestrian who was in a crosswalk. Under the new law, however, drivers are required to stop. Although these two actions may seem similar, yielding and stopping, which calls for a driver to bring his or her vehicle to a complete halt, are two different things. So what is the difference between the old and new law? Yielding means giving way to the pedestrian, but not necessarily stopping in all situations. The new rule requires drivers to come to a full stop until the pedestrian has cleared the crosswalk. This rule is applicable to minor intersections and unmarked crosswalks, since those areas are considered passing lanes for pedestrians. Other drivers also are prohibited from overtaking a driver who has stopped for a pedestrian.

Are there any exceptions to this new rule? When a traffic officer is directing traffic, crosswalk rules may be suspended, since the officer will control the passing of vehicles and the crossing of pedestrians. Also, drivers may not be held liable if a pedestrian quickly runs or walks in the path of a vehicle, thus making it impossible to yield or stop effectively.

What penalties can a driver who fails to stop or yield to a pedestrian face? New Jersey drivers can be fined a minimum of $200, receive two points on their driver's licenses, pay insurance surcharges and perform 15 days of community service.

Source: The State of New Jersey, Department of Law & Public Safety, Office of the Attorney General, "Pedestrian Safety," accessed on Sept. 17, 2014

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