Tag Archive for 'legal'

KPLU wonders why Seattleites don’t jaywalk

KPLU looks at Seattle’s notorious aversion to jaywalking.

In 1978 it was one the first things Patrick Fitzsimons notice when he came to interview for the police chief job. Seattle Police officer John Abraham says the story has become stuff of legend.

“Chief Patrick Fitzsimons and his wife were in a hotel in Belltown and Fitzsimons is looking out the window and he calls his wife over, ‘Ogla you gotta see this! It’s pouring rain. It’s Sunday morning, and they are waiting for the light to cross. We are staying here.’”

KPLU looks at why that is the case and suggests that the Seattle Police have a part in maintaining the non-jaywalking culture here.

As long as it’s the law, police officer Abraham says citing jaywalkers will continue to be a top priority.

“Jaywalking can cost your life; smoking marijuana can just give you a buzz. So, I’ll be after a jaywalker rather than someone with a joint. Unless that person starts to jaywalk, then they’ll really be in trouble.”

KPLU links to the current petition to make jaywalking legal unless it impedes motor vehicle traffic and also provides some advice:

  • Jaywalk in the middle of a block. It’s safer because you have a clear view and there are no cars nearby making turns into the intersection.
  • If you get caught, don’t cop an attitude with the police officer and don’t give them any excuses such as being late or “just grabbing a coffee”. They’ve heard it all. Apologize and move on.
  • You can take your ticket to the city’s magistrate office, where they will probably offer to cut the fine in half.
  • Don’t bother trying to take it to trial. You will likely lose and it will be a big waste of time and resources for all parties involved.
  • The new crosswalks with the count-down timers can be confusing. You are technically jaywalking if you enter the intersection after the walk signal is gone and the numbers start ticking down.

Book released on Washington State Pedestrian Law

For anyone who has been injured in a pedestrian or crosswalk accident, a new book has been written specifically for you:

Seattle attorney, Christopher M. Davis, has authored a new book written to help injury victims protect their legal rights after a pedestrian or crosswalk accident. The book, Right of Way: The Essential Guide to Pedestrian Accident Law in Washington State, is written to help victims of pedestrian collisions navigate the legal claims process.

“As an accident attorney some of the most tragic injury cases I see are those involving pedestrians and motor vehicles,” says Davis. “When a pedestrian has been injured in an accident the injures can be serious and long lasting. It is easy for victims and their families to be overwhelmed with the legal and insurance claims process that may ensue.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nationally 4,092 pedestrians were killed in preventable accidents in 2009. That averages to 11 people killed in fatal pedestrian collisions each day. Locally, Washington State Patrol reports a sharp spike in the number of pedestrian fatalities in Washington State. So far eight (8) pedestrians have lost their lives in District 7 in 2011.

In Right of Way, Davis offers basic facts about typical accident claims involving pedestrians; defines the legal and settlement process for crosswalk accident claims; gives tips on dealing with insurance companies; offers insight into how pedestrian claims are valued; and discusses common questions and legal issues that are often present in cases involving pedestrians, as well as the common pitfalls and traps to avoid. Davis also helps pedestrian accident victims understand the pros and cons of hiring an attorney to represent their case.

The book is published by Word Association Press and is available for $24.95 at Amazon.com.

From the description on Amazon:

Seattle attorney Chris Davis’ Right of Way: The Essential Guide to Pedestrian Accident Law in Washington State is without a doubt the best and most complete guide I have ever read on pedestrian accident cases. This is a ‘must read’ for anyone who has been injured in a pedestrian or crosswalk accident. The information will help you understand the insurance claims process, learn your legal rights, and give you vital information that will help maximize the value of your personal injury settlement.

If you were involved in a collision as a pedestrian, you could be eligible to receive a free book. Or, it can be purchased at Amazon.com.


All intersections legal for crossing

As many of you know, pedestrian crosswalks exist at every interesction in Washington, whether marked or not. But what about T-intersections? And what about odd-angle intersections? And, what about intersections where pedestrians are expressly forbidden? Well, the last one isn’t a legal crosswalk, but the other two are.

According to SDOT:

Legal pedestrian crosswalks exist at every intersection, including three way and odd angle intersections, whether the crosswalk is marked or unmarked. A marked crosswalk normally indicates a preferred pedestrian crossing point which is the safest place for a pedestrian to cross. Perhaps it is a location where lighting or visibility is best among a number of options, or where the potential for pedestrian-vehicle conflicts is lowest.

Safe crossings of streets are dependent upon good driver behavior and good pedestrian behavior. Any situation can become a dangerous one if poor driving or improper pedestrian or driver behavior is involved. While SDOT focuses on both traffic operations and the physical environment, everyone plays a role in pedestrian safety.

So, while three-way intersections and odd-angle intersections may not be particularly common, and while people may not cross at some intersections very frequently, they’re all legal crosswalks.


What to do when someone parks on the sidewalk

Asphalt sidewalk used for parking

Vehicle parked on asphalt sidewalk

Feel free to program these numbers for the Seattle Police Department into your phone in case you run into any conflicts with parked vehicles on your next walk.

  • For ongoing issues, contact the Parking Enforcement Unit at 206-386-9012 and they will come out and investigate what is going on and work to correct the issue through new signage or more regular enforcement.
  • For issues that may need more immediate attention, you can call SPD’s non-emergency number at 206-625-5011.

Parking on any portion of sidewalk illegal

Just in case anyone was wondering, it’s illegal to park your vehicle on any portion of the sidewalk, even where the sidewalk intersects with your driveway. This applies to motorcycles and mopeds, not just cars. From the Seattle PI’s 911 blog:

It’s illegal to be parked on any portion of the sidewalk, Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan said.

He cited section 11.72.360 of the Seattle Municipal Code, which states: “No person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle on or over a sidewalk, whether constructed or not.”


All the sidewalks in the world don’t protect us from this

Drunk drivers are a menace to pedestrians, bicyclists, other drivers, and private property. But, to the legal system, well, maybe DUI isn’t really that big of a deal. As reported in the Times this morning:

Last year, when Dwight David Benson was sentenced to an exceptional three-year jail term for his 12th drunken-driving conviction, he promised to “never drink and drive again.”

Last weekend — while free on bond pending an appeal of that sentence — the 64-year-old Benson crashed another car, apparently while drunk.

So after 12 drunk-driving convictions, a three year sentence was an exceptionally high sentence, and the offender was bailed out last June on appeal. Well, at least he’s probably going to lose that appeal now. Who knows how many other people like this are out there, so this is a good reminder to look both ways when you cross.


Vulernable Users Bill passes House

The Vulnerable Users Bill, which would stiffen penalties against negligent drivers that hit pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable roadway users, has passed the state house. PubliCola has a longer write-up:

Kline’s legislation creates a new infraction where drivers who strike vulnerable users are subject to a $5,000 fine and restricted from driving for 90 days. Currently, drivers who strike vulnerable users in the second degree are subject only to a $250 fine. Opponents of the legislation such as Rep. Jay Rodne (R-5, North Bend) have argued in the past that vulnerable users shouldn’t be treated any differently than other car drivers.

This version differs from the version passed by the Senate, so this version will be sent to the Senate for final passage before being sent to be signed by the governor.


Road rules for walkers

SDOT continues its series on the rules of the road by explaining the laws that apply to pedestrians.  Do you find any of SDOT’s rules helpful?  Should they focus less on pedestrians per se and more on reminding drivers about pedestrians’ rights, or is any attention to pedestrians helpful?

Here’s their pick for “most unknown or misunderstood law on the books”:

As we pointed out last week, every intersection contains a crosswalk whether marked or unmarked and drivers are required to stop for pedestrians at these locations. This law, without a doubt, is the most unknown or misunderstood law on the books. Most people are unaware of this despite the fact that this is true throughout the state of Washington. So it is perfectly legal to cross the street at an intersection even without the aid of crosswalk striping on the pavement.

And from the ‘outlaw stupidity’ department:

But did you know that it actually against the law to dart out into the roadway or suddenly enter a crosswalk? The law states that no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop. Darting out into the roadway is frequently a contributing cause in vehicle-pedestrian collisions. Stopping at the curb before entering the roadway signals drivers that you intend to cross the street.

One thing that may be important to know:

Another little known “rule of the road” for pedestrians is that there are certain circumstances that require the pedestrian to yield to vehicles. Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway. So if you’re crossing your residential street to go chat with your neighbor, be sure to yield to cars before you cross.

And some safety reminders:

In all circumstances, pedestrians should be certain that drivers see them before they enter the roadway. And don’t let the fact that you are crossing the street in a marked crosswalk lull you into a false sense of security. Be on guard for drivers that may not see you due to darkness, inattention, or other factors. Wearing bright, colorful, or reflective clothing can help drivers see you as you attempt to cross the street.

And a few reminders on laws that limit where pedestrians can legally cross. Unfortunately, some of these are hard to follow for those of us afflicted with chronic impatience:

At traffic signals, walkers should always obey the pedestrian signal which will indicate “walk” or “don’t walk” via symbols or text. Most people have a pretty firm understanding of these two phases, but what exactly does the “flashing don’t walk” phase indicate? To understand, let’s review the entire pedestrian signal cycle. The “walk” phase is intended to move pedestrians off the curb and into the crosswalk but not necessarily across the entire street (See our previous post that has more detail about how we determine crossing timing for peds). The “flashing don’t walk” phase is intended to inform pedestrians that they should not begin to cross the street if they are still on the sidewalk or curb. Pedestrians already in the crosswalk should continue crossing the street and vehicles should remain stopped to allow pedestrians to complete the crossing during the “flashing don’t walk” phase. Crossings should be complete by the time the solid “don’t walk” phase appears.

It’s important to note that pedestrians should not cross the street between adjacent, signalized intersections which are common in neighborhood commercial areas and in downtown Seattle. Crossing in these mid-block locations should only be done if a marked crosswalk is present.


Vulnerable User bill passed by Senate

Senate Bill 5326, which would increase the penalty for driving negligently and hitting a pedestrian or cyclist, was passed in the state Senate by a vote of 43-5 on Thursday.

This bill addresses negligent (not reckless) driving, so it wouldn’t apply to recent sentences, that were given for drunk driving. Here’s more information from The Olympian:

Under existing law, the penalties are the same for someone who drives negligently but does not hurt anyone and for a negligent driver who injures or kills a biker or pedestrian.

“If you are negligent and you kill someone, what you get is a ticket and a $250 fine,” said Sen. Adam Kline, a Seattle Democrat and the bill’s primary sponsor. “Families see that small fine and wonder, why is someone getting away with a killing and getting a $250 fine?”

According to data from the Cascade Bicycle Club, which helped draft the bill, an average of 229 Washington bikers and pedestrians were killed or seriously injured per year between 2004 and 2007 in accidents where the driver failed to yield, was driving too fast, ran a red light or wasn’t paying attention.

John Schochet, a lawyer from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office who worked on the bill, said if you drive recklessly, meaning you are intentionally driving in a way that is likely to harm a person or property, but don’t hurt anyone, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. If you drive recklessly and do hurt or kill someone, you can be charged with a felony.

If you drive negligently, however, meaning you don’t drive in a way that a reasonably careful person would, you have committed a traffic infraction, not a crime, and you get the same penalties whether you kill someone or not.

For a case where someone is injured or killed, police officers and courts have to decide whether the driver who caused the accident was reckless or negligent, and, Schochet said, there is no middle ground between the two.

“This fills a gap,” said Schochet, referring to the Senate bill. “Right now there’s really nothing between a traffic ticket and a felony charge.”

If the bill is enacted, people who drive negligently and seriously hurt or kill a “vulnerable road user” would either have to pay a $1,000 to $5,000 fine and have their licenses revoked for 90 days or appear at a hearing, pay a $250 fine, take a traffic safety course and complete 100 hours of community service. Vulnerable users include moped riders, equestrians and tractor drivers as well as bikers and pedestrians.

A bill has to be passed by the House as well, however the good news is that the companion bill HB 1339 has made it out of the house rules committee.


Drunk driver gets less than 3 years in prison for hitting 5 people

A woman who was driving with a blood alcohol level of more than 3 times the legal limit, who ran over five pedestrians, has been sentenced to 29 months in prison.

Wright, 43, pleaded guilty earlier this month to three counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless driving in connection with the accident that sent four people to the hospital. One victim, a 28-year-old woman, suffered a brain injury that required doctors to remove a portion of her skull, according to charging paperwork.

The sentence imposed Friday by King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller was at the high end of the sentencing range, according to the King County prosecutor’s website.

I dunno what to say.