UMD Police Urge Drivers to Use Caution, Watch for Pedestrians

Pedestrian Right of Way: Not Always Clear

DULUTH, Minn. – Three weeks into the new year, and already three drivers have been given citations for failing to yield to pedestrians on the campus of UMD.

Just last year, 24 drivers received tickets, an uptick from 2018.

With recent weather conditions making for tall snow banks and sloppy, slick roads, it’s prompting UMD Police Department to speak out with the hope of avoiding future accidents.

“I was just walking out from the buses and somebody was speeding down Kirby Drive and almost clipped me as I was crossing the street,” said Kathryne Ford, a student who now attends classes at The College of St. Scholastica.

It’s like clockwork on campus, students coming and going day in and day out.

“I was thinking it was just a split second between being hit by a car, anything can happen, it was kind of scary,” said Ford.

All it took was first hand experience for Ford to want to speak out.

“We have seen some pedestrian vehicle traffic crashes in and around the area,” said Sean Huls, UMD Chief of Police.

Officer Huls and his team are ramping up enforcement for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.

“The responsibility is both on the driver and the pedestrian,” said Huls.

Click here to view the Minnesota State Statute regarding pedestrian traffic law.

Since fall of 2019, UMD Police Department has seen an uptick in vehicle versus pedestrian incidents. With recent winter weather conditions, they’re urging drivers to work together with pedestrians to prevent further injuries.

“In addition to increasing our enforcement, we’ve been working with our partners in the city, state, and county levels to look at ways to improve public safety,” said Huls.

Officer Huls, using his experience to make campus a safer place for staff, students, and others in the community.

“There are a couple concerning crosswalks on and around campus that we’re taking a look at, whether it be lighting, positioning of where the crosswalk is, and maybe some signage ideas,” said Huls.

He says a combination of enforcement, education, and engineering will hopefully cut down on scary situations for walkers, and hefty fines for drivers.

“State Statute says that it has to be safe and practical for the vehicle to be able to make a safe stop when they reach the crosswalk,” said Huls. “With the high snowbanks and the snowfall we’ve had, it has increased the concern and some of the safety issues in crosswalk areas.”

It’s a concern Officer Huls and his department doesn’t take lightly. Strict enforcement often times results in citations instead of warnings.

“A pedestrian can’t just walk right out into the crosswalk or roadway when a vehicle is approaching,” said Huls.

“Definitely drive slow around here, don’t be speeding, and watch out for people getting off the buses,” said Ford.

Additionally, UMD Police Department along with the Duluth Police Department have received a $10,000 grant though the Towards Zero Death grant.

This will help increase pedestrian safety enforcement and education in 2020.

The Minnesota Crosswalk Law:

  • Drivers must stop for crossing pedestrians at marked crosswalks and at all intersections without crosswalks or stop lights.
  • Pedestrians must obey traffic signs and signals at all intersections that have them.
  • Vehicles stopped for pedestrians can proceed once the pedestrian has completely crossed the lane in front of the stopped vehicle.
  • Pedestrians must not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is approaching and it is impossible for the driver to stop. There is no defined distance that a pedestrian must abide by before entering the crosswalk; use common sense.
  • When a vehicle is stopped at an intersection to allow pedestrians to cross the roadway, drivers of other vehicles approaching from the rear must not pass the stopped vehicle.
  • Failure to obey the law is a misdemeanor. A second violation within one year is a gross misdemeanor.
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