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Driving You Crazy: After someone crosses the road, can I go even if the yellow light is still flashing?

driving you crazy aug. 30 2021.JPG
Posted at 10:06 AM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 12:06:36-04

Alicia from Greenwood Village writes,“Love your driving you crazy stories. When a crosswalk has flashing yellow lights and a pedestrian is walking, once the pedestrian is finished crossing and the lights are still flashing and no other pedestrians are nearby the crossing, is it okay to drive pass the crosswalk?”

Yes Alicia, it is legal to drive past the crosswalk in that situation. State law says that a driver must stop when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk, not while the lights are flashing so you would be good to go once the pedestrian is safely on the sidewalk. This is the reason the lights flash amber, to signal caution. Red flashing lights would require a driver to make a complete stop. Of course, you should make sure that no other pedestrians are about to cross as they might see the flashing lights as their cue to cross the street.

These crossing signals, officially called "rectangular rapid flashing beacons," are typically designed for mid-block or mid-roadway pedestrian crossings. These crossings are typically placed along existing trails or places where people tend to cross outside a normal crosswalk. At these crosswalks, pedestrians push a button making the LED lights rapidly flash, alerting drivers someone is at the crosswalk. The yellow lights flash in an irregular pattern, designed to grab the attention of passing drivers. After the driver stops and the pedestrian clears the crosswalk, drivers are clear to proceed.

It is also important to remember that even though the general rule is that pedestrians always have the right of way, that is not always correct. Even in a crosswalk, it is Colorado law that, “No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and ride a bicycle, ride an electrical assisted bicycle, walk, or run into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

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It is also the responsibility of all pedestrians to cross at a designated crosswalk. According to Denver Municipal Code Sec. 54-540 - Right-of-way when crossing at other than crosswalks, “(a)Every pedestrian crossing the roadway at any point other than within a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway. (b)Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided, but not using such facility, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.”

Furthermore, in Denver Municipal Code Sec. 54-542 - Prohibited crossing of roadways, “(a)It shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to cross a roadway at any place except in a crosswalk, between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation; except that pedestrians may cross on area designated as a bike lane or pedestrian and transit mall at any point between intersections but shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully within the area designated as a bike lane or pedestrian and transit mall. (b)It shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to cross a roadway that is a through street or through highway at any place other than a crosswalk.”

Colorado’s Fang Law Firm says crossing the street at a place other than an intersection or crosswalk is dangerous due to the unexpected nature of the act: “Drivers will not be anticipating or looking out for pedestrians at points in the road between two controlled intersections. This could increase the odds of a driver failing to see a crossing pedestrian and failing to stop in time to prevent an accident.”

The law firm also states the law treats jaywalkers differently than other pedestrians.

“If a pedestrian was unlawfully jaywalking at the time of his or her accident, the courts may reduce his or her compensatory award or bar the plaintiff from recovery entirely. Colorado uses a modified comparative negligence law, which states that a plaintiff’s portion of fault for a pedestrian accident will diminish his or her recovery by a matching percentage. If the pedestrian was 50% or more at fault, he or she will not recover any damages from the driver.”

The City and County of Denver has an outstanding information page called, Uncontrolled Pedestrian Crossing Guidelines and covers all the information you would ever need about crosswalks, how pedestrians should cross, the rules for drivers and much more.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.