The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
January 31, 1997 97-R-0173
FROM: Laura Jordan, Research Attorney
RE: Pedestrian Crosswalks
You asked for a history and explanation of Connecticut's law regarding a pedestrian's right of way in crosswalks.
Since 1929, pedestrians have had the right of way in crosswalks. If a pedestrian is at the curb of or in a crosswalk all vehicles must slow down or stop to allow him to reach either the opposite side of the street or a “safety zone.” If a pedestrian is not in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, then he must yield to all other traffic. The law places some restrictions on pedestrians using crosswalks. For example, they are required to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles. Pedestrians who violate crosswalk laws face a fine of between $35 and $50. Drivers who violate the crosswalk law face fines set by the Superior Court judges of between $35 and $90.
Definition of Crosswalk and Authority to Create
The law defines a crosswalk as either (1) the part of a public road at an intersection which would laterally, not diagonally, connect sidewalks or (2) any area on a road which is distinguished as a crossing for pedestrians by devices, lines, or markings on the surface of the road (CGS § 14-297(2)).
The traffic authority of a city, town, or borough can create crosswalks (CGS § 14-300(a)). Local governments appoint the traffic authority which may be, among other things, a board of police commissioners, a city or town manager, or an appointed official or board.
Pedestrain Rights and Responsibilities in Crosswalks
A pedestrian generally has the right of way over all vehicles while at the curb of or in a crosswalk. This means that cars and other vehicle traffic (buses, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, etc.) must slow down or stop in front of a crosswalk when a pedestrian is using or is about to use a crosswalk. Vehicles must remain stopped until the pedestrian has fully crossed the street or has reached a “zone of safety.” The term “zone of safety” is not defined in the statute.
The statutes identify three basic types of crosswalks, and different rules apply for each type. They are: (1) crosswalks controlled by “walk” and “don't walk” electronic signs; (2) crosswalks controlled by other traffic signals (such as traffic lights or stop signs) or police officers; (3) crosswalks identified by devices or special markings or lines made on the surface of the road. This third type is typically used near schools and in outdoor shopping districts and may be placed in the middle of a block in addition to intersections.
Pedestrians face some restrictions regardless of what type of crosswalk they enter. All pedestrians must yield to emergency vehicles which indicate either by flashing lights or by sound that they are operating in an emergency situation. A pedestrian must also stay within the boundaries of a crosswalk and may not cross an intersection diagonally. Whenever possible, a pedestrian must stay on the right hand side of a crosswalk. Finally, a pedestrian must yield to vehicles where no crosswalk exists.
Crosswalks Controlled by “Walk” and “Don't Walk” Signals. While at a crosswalk controlled by a “walk” and “don't walk” sign, pedestrians have the right of way over all vehicles, including turning vehicles, as long as they comply with the signal. A pedestrian may begin to cross a street only when there is a “walk” signal. A pedestrian may not begin to cross the street if the “don't walk” signal is either blinking or solid. If a pedestrian begins to cross the street when the signal reads “walk” but the signal changes to “don't walk” while he is still crossing the street, he must continue to cross the street until he reaches the other side or until he reaches a “safety island” which could be a raised sidewalk dividing traffic lanes (CGS § 14-299 (b)(5)).
Crosswalks Controlled by Traffic Signals or Police Officers. Pedestrians using crosswalks controlled by traffic signals (such as traffic lights or stop signs) or by police officers may not cross against the traffic signal or direction of the officer. If a traffic light is green, then a pedestrian may cross and has the right of way over all vehicles, including turning vehicles, until he has reached the other side of the street.
Any Crosswalk Indicated by Devices, Lines, or Markings on the Surface of the Road. Pedestrians have the right of way over all vehicles, including turning vehicles, while in a crosswalk which is indicated by devices, markers, or lines on the surface of the road. Typically, these types of crosswalks are located near schools, churches, and in outdoor shopping districts. They allow pedestrians to cross a street in the middle of a block in addition to an intersection. All traffic must slow down or stop if a pedestrian has either: (1) stepped up to the curb of such a cross way, (2) has entered the half of the road in which the driver's vehicle is located, or (3) has entered the half of the road in which the driver's vehicle is not located (CGS § 14-300(c)). Furthermore, vehicles may not pass other vehicles which are stopped or paused at a crosswalk.
Fines for Violation of Crosswalk Laws
A pedestrian issued a traffic ticket for violating crosswalk laws faces a fine between $35 and $50 (CGS § 53-182). A motorist issued a ticket for violating crosswalk laws faces a fine of between $35 and $90 (CGS § 51-164).
If a civil suit is filed as a result of a motorist violating crosswalk laws, a court may not hold that he is negligent per se (CGS § 14-300(d)).
HISTORY OF PEDESTRIAN RIGHT OF WAY IN CROSSWALKS
In 1929, the General Assembly gave local traffic authorities power to designate crosswalks for pedestrians. It also established that pedestrians had the right of way over vehicles so long as they crossed the street during a green signal (CGS § 395 (1930)).
The 1955 legislature modified the crosswalk law by requiring pedestrians crossing intersections controlled by "walk" and "don't walk” signals to cross only during the “walk” signal (CGS § 1403d (1955)). A 1967 law permitted the traffic authority to create specially marked crosswalks around schools and to place traffic signs near schools warning motorists of the upcoming crosswalks (1967, P.A. 639).
In 1978, the legislature made several changes to the crosswalk laws (PA 78-309). The 1978 law:
1. specified that vehicles must yield to pedestrians who are at the curb of a crosswalk or in either lane of traffic while in a crosswalk,
2. prohibited vehicles from passing other vehicles which were stopped at crosswalks,
3. required pedestrians to yield the right of way to all vehicles when they were not in a crosswalk,
4. required pedestrians to yield the right of way to all emergency vehicles which indicated by flashing lights or sound that they were operating under emergency conditions,
5. prohibited pedestrians from crossing intersections diagonally,
6. required pedestrians to use the right hand side of crosswalks whenever possible.
Finally, a 1994 law made a semantic change in the crosswalk laws. Vehicles were required to “grant” pedestrians the right of way as opposed to “yielding” the right of way (PA 94-189).