Question: Can a driver be cited for a traffic violation for blocking a crosswalk? – Jerry W., Parkland
Answer: The short answer is yes.
Of course, Jerry’s question and the law are a bit more complicated, so let us expound.
Here’s the scenario:
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You pull up to an intersection as the light turns red. As a law-abiding citizen, you activated your right-turn signal upon approaching the intersection because you intend to turn right.
After stopping at the white stop line, you pull into and stop in the marked crosswalk to, as Jerry put it, “observe cross traffic before proceeding to make a right turn.”
Seems like a safe and logical course of action, no?
Except the blue lights then flash behind you, and a police officer is writing you a ticket for blocking a crosswalk.
“The section that prohibits stopping on a crosswalk is RCW 46.61.570(1)(a)(iv),” Jerry wrote. “This section seems to be about parking violations, not traffic violations. Did the officer make a mistake about stopping the driver?”
Not by our reading.
RCW 46.61.570 is titled, “Stopping, standing, or parking prohibited in specified places — Reserving portion of highway prohibited.”
The pertinent parts read:
“(1) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic control device, no person shall:
(a) Stop, stand or park a vehicle:
(iv) On a crosswalk.”
“Stop,” “stand” and “park” all mean different things in the eyes of the Legislature, but “stop” appears to be the operative word in Jerry’s case, so here’s that definition, according to RCW 46.04.566:
“Stop or stopping, when prohibited, means any halting even momentarily of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic control sign or signal.”
Seeking clarification of our interpretation, we put the question to Loretta Cool, a Tacoma police officer and department spokeswoman.
Cool, responding by email, was succinct.
“It is always illegal to block the crosswalk,” she wrote. “Either there is an opening (to make the turn) or not.”
We pushed for wiggle room.
TNT: “Even if I can see better if I pull up just a little? Asking for a friend.”
Cool: “Wait for the green light. Read my first response.”
TNT: “You’re mean.”
Cool: “Just saving your friend the ticket.”
Sorry you didn’t ask earlier, Jerry. You might have saved your friend a ticket.