Question: My family and I have concerns about the crosswalk in Spicer in front of the library. It’s a state highway that runs through town with two lanes in each direction and each direction has a turn lane so there are a total of six-lanes. The speed limit is 40 mph and the crosswalk is marked with the newer overhead system with flashing lights. Even with the installation of the device with flashing lights, I still have some safety concerns due to traffic not stopping and pedestrians not knowing how to use the device as examples. Can you share how best to navigate such a crosswalk for both motorists and pedestrians? Thank you.

Answer: Minnesota State Statute defines "Crosswalk" as any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface. The dictionary definition is “a marked path where people can safely walk across a street or road.”

Crosswalks involve pedestrians and motor vehicles – the literal two-way street. That means everyone involved – pedestrian and driver must share the road. Each person has their part in personal responsibility and accountability. Failure to yield the right-of-way and driver/pedestrian inattention/distraction are the main contributing factors in pedestrian crashes. A few simple rules of the road can help get us all home safely at the end of the day:

Safety Tips for Drivers

  • Scan the road and sidewalks ahead for pedestrians. Drive attentively and at safe speeds. Remember, pedestrians can be difficult to see, especially in bad weather or at night.
  • Anticipate pedestrians especially in urban areas, around schools and colleges.
  • Before making a turn, look in all directions for pedestrians.
  • Look carefully behind your vehicle before backing up, especially for small children.
  • Watch for people in wheelchairs and motorized carts, who may be below eye level.
  • Stop for crossing pedestrians at every intersection, even those without crosswalks or stoplights. Stop far enough back so drivers in other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.
  • Do not block crosswalks while stopped, and don’t pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians. Drive smart by slowing down in neighborhoods and always park the phone, it’s the law!
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Safety Tips for Pedestrians

  • Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections; don’t cross mid-block and obey traffic signals.
  • Make eye contact with drivers and ensure they see you and will stop.
  • Clearly show your intentions to cross. When you have a system to activate (flashing lights/beacon) – use them.
  • Watch for turning and passing vehicles.
  • Look across all lanes for moving vehicles before proceeding.
  • Continue to be alert and watch for vehicles when walking in a crosswalk — drivers aren't always looking for pedestrians.
  • Use sidewalks where provided — where no sidewalks are provided, it is usually safer to walk facing traffic.
  • Make it easy for drivers to see you — dress in light colors and wear retro-reflective material. Carry a flashlight when it’s dark.
  • Alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to walk safely, just like they do a person's ability to drive.
  • Use extra caution when crossing multiple-lane, higher speed streets.
  • When crossing the road, stay off your phone or device. Distractions can cause a pedestrian to enter the roadway when traffic is coming.

To be clear: Pedestrian Safety Is Everyone's Responsibility.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).