Evanston officials say recent efforts to improve pedestrian safety at crosswalks have caused some confusion for motorists.
As a result of a change in state law last July, motorists now are required to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks — not just yield to them, as was the rule before.
But the new signs used to mark crosswalks across the state incorporate a small replica of a standard stop sign — and some motorists reportedly have concluded that means they have to stop, even if no pedestrians are in sight. But the law only calls for a stop when pedestrians are present.
“Evanston motorists need to pay special attention to the nearly 50 uncontrolled mid-block pedestrian crossings (those without traffic lights or stop signs) around town,” says Public Works Director Suzette Robinson. “The city is in the process of upgrading these crossings with clearer, more visible signs alerting motorists of an upcoming pedestrian crossing.”
The city has already upgraded 20 of the crossings with a series of three signs:
- 100 feet before the crossing, yellow diamond shaped signs read “pedestrian crossing ahead.”
- 20 feet before the crossing are yellow rectangular shaped signs emblazoned with a small “stop sign” within the sign labeled “State Law, Stop here for pedestrians”
- At the pavement marked crosswalk there are yellow rectangular “pedestrian crossing” signs.
“The city would like to call special attention to six of these new upgraded mid-block crossings as being part of a pilot program that, in addition to using the three above described traffic signs, will also employ the use of yellow in-street signs that are tall, slender and rectangular emblazoned with a small “stop sign” within the sign labeled ‘State Law, stop for pedestrians within crosswalk,’” added City Engineer Paul Schneider.
The locations of these six in-street crossings are: Oakton Street and Grey Avenue, Emerson Street and Dewey Avenue, Emerson Street and Hartrey Avenue, Chicago Avenue and Hamilton Street, Main Street and Ashland Avenue and Main Street and Florence Avenue.
“We have had some recent concerns about people stopping abruptly at these crosswalks causing traffic back-ups, and in some cases, accidents,” Robinson said. “With the winter upon us, this type of last second, abrupt stopping because the motorist misinterprets the sign could potentially cause accidents on snowy or icy street surfaces.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation says that every year an average of 170 pedestrians are hit and killed by motorists in the state. In addition, approximately 6,000 accidents involving pedestrians are reported to authorities. The vast majority of pedestrian fatalities occur in crosswalks and over 30 percent of these accidents involve children.
The new law imposes hefty fines on motorists who fail to stop at crosswalks and yield to pedestrians. The law imposes a $150 minimum fine to motorists for the first violation, with the fine doubling for second offenses. An additional $50 fine can be imposed when the law is broken in a school zone. About 20 percent of all pedestrian crashes occur within 800 feet of a school.
Details on new sign rules from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (.pdf)