Earlier this year, we published a response to the LAPD jaywalking crackdown asking officers to please focus their energy on ticketing drivers who were blocking or in some cases blatantly driving through a crosswalk while pedestrians were present—something we saw and documented as a far bigger safety issue on downtown streets. Two weeks ago, Melanie Freeland was verbally berated and nearly hit by a driver who purposely sped through a crosswalk, then dismissed by a police officer who saw the entire incident. We asked Melanie to share her story, as well as the letter she sent to LAPD.
On Wednesday June 18, I was crossing Flower Street heading east at 6th Street during my lunch hour. I was walking in the crosswalk, with the signal, when a vehicle heading east on 6th Street in the outside lane failed to yield at the light when making a right-hand turn. The car came to a quick stop in the crosswalk, startling me and I stopped walking to look at the driver, expecting to see an acknowledgement or nod of apology for nearly hitting me. Instead the driver laid on the horn, long and loud.
Confused, I looked at the crosswalk signal which was still a clear walk signal, not even counting down, with other people around me continuing to cross the street. I pointed to the signal and held my hands up in a “I don’t understand” signal to the driver. He then proceeded to roll down his window and lean his head out, yelling expletives which—in summary—demanded I get out of the street. I had my cellphone in hand so I held it up to snap a photo of him and his license plate. Upon seeing this he hit the gas, swerved, pealing out as he continued down Flower Street. He missed hitting me and other pedestrians in the crosswalk by only a few inches.
I work downtown at 5th and Flower and usually walk somewhere in the neighborhood for lunch or for after-work activities so I’m acquainted with the average driver’s antics when they’re in a hurry. Yet I was admittedly shaken after this event.
I continued to cross the street and it was when I turned to cross 6th Street that I noticed a police car was sitting two cars back at the red light. I flagged him and he pulled over. I asked if he had seen the car. He said, “I did. Did you hear me hit my PA?” I said no, at which time he asked if I was okay and why I was “blocking traffic.” To be clear, he specifically asked if I was on any medication.
I explained I was in the crosswalk to cross the street with a clear walk signal—he was at the same red light waiting—and that the car nearly hit me, then threatened me verbally and threatened me with his vehicle. He explained that he had seen the driver lean out the window but couldn’t hear what he said or the events preceeding, that so had assumed I was blocking traffic, thus why he had hit the PA.
At this point I was extremely frustrated with the situation. I questioned the officer about the vehicle code, asking him if a driver could enter a crosswalk and then proceed through it while pedestrians were in the area without being ticketed. He told me that unless someone was injured then a ticket could not be issued. I requested a follow up and left him with my information and the information of the car and driver.
After conferring with Los Angeles Walks, we were able to find two sections of the City’s vehicle code which we think expressly empower officers to ticket drivers who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians. Below is the letter I sent to LAPD.
My question is this: If a pedestrian can be ticketed for potentially impeding vehicle traffic by beginning to cross the crosswalk after the countdown, then why aren’t cars being ticketed for entering the crosswalk, which not only impedes pedestrian traffic but often endangers their safety?
We are waiting for a response from LAPD.
Hello Officer Saletros,
I’m following up with you on an incident that occurred on 6/18 at the corner of 6th & Flower. A silver Mercedes with CA license plate [redacted] failed to yield to me in the crosswalk while attempting to make a right hand turn on red and I had a clear walk signal. The driver proceeded to verbally assault me and cut through the occupied crosswalk inches from my person. I spoke with you briefly after incident at which time you explained that you had witnessed a portion of the events and relayed your understanding of the vehicle code which did not allow you to ticket the driver.
Thank you for your follow up call confirming your interpretation of the vehicle code noting that in order for a violation to occur a pedestrian must be injured in the incident. I have since followed up with the pedestrian advocacy group, Los Angeles Walks (cc’ed here). They noted that LAPD officers in the past have done sting operations to catch and ticket drivers that are violating the pedestrian right of way in crosswalks. They pointed me to 2 relevant sections of the LA Municipal Code. I’ve copied them below for your reference (emphasis mine).
89.32. RIGHT OF WAY AT CROSSWALKS.
The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk or any intersection.
SEC. 89.16. CITATIONS AND ARRESTS.
(b) Any police officer is authorized and empowered to issue citations to any person violating any of the provisions of this division on the same forms used for violation of traffic laws or ordinances by the Police Department of the City and in accordance with the provisions of Sections 40500, 40501 and 40502 of the Vehicle Code, or to place such person under arrest in cases where arrest is authorized for similar offenses under the provisions of said Vehicle Code.
Can you review and let me know whether either of these codes allow an officer to ticket a driver in the future for a hostile action such as the incident explained above? If not can you please confirm what code section that is used when ticketing driving during pedestrian crosswalk sting operations?
Thank you for your assistance,
Update: Most traffic tickets are actually written for violating a state law—and crosswalk safety is no different. The California Vehicle Code also requires drivers to yield the Right of Way to pedestrians crossing the street.
VC 21950 says the following:
(a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection