Running from the Law – Ohio Pedestrian Laws
As an avid runner, as well as to somewhat build on the excellent previous blogging on biking of my esteemed colleague, Brandon Cogswell, I feel the need, no, I am compelled to take this opportunity to reiterate the important and long standing laws on the books regarding the interactions of pedestrians (including walkers, staggerers, joggers, runners, sprinters, leapers and the like) and their vehicular counterparts. The truth is the roads in Ohio (and any state) are becoming more crowded and more dangerous than ever, and nowhere is this more evident than those junctions where bipeds and autos/motorcycles meet.
Interestingly enough, the golden rule of the pedestrian always has the right of way is not entirely accurate under the Ohio Revised Code (ORC). The better statement is to say the pedestrian has the right of way on select parts of our roads and portions thereof. To be sure, a pedestrian always has the right of way on the sidewalk (ORC 4511.441). Likewise, pedestrians have the right of way in all marked crosswalks (ORC 4511.16). However, the key terminology there is “marked.” Thus, the law does not protect jaywalkers or those who decide to cross a road at any unmarked section. The burden is clearly on the pedestrian to ensure he is walking or crossing in a safe manner. Now, it is important to remind all drivers that a cross walk is the protected area bound by and including the two wide lines between which pedestrians can walk. The crosswalk is NOT the stop line or forward point of progress for your vehicle to reach before you stop your car at an intersection. Indeed, many streets are even marked with a separate stop line in advance of the cross walk for this very purpose. Some municipalities go as far as to have signs conveniently and conspicuously stating as much (i.e., “Stop Here” with an arrow pointing to the stop line). The Code also requires pedestrians to, whenever practical, limit walking in crosswalks to the right side or half of the crosswalk. (ORC 4511.49).
Now, an area that causes many a driver (and runner) some stress is on what side of the road should a runner run, much less if a runner can even share the road with vehicles. Thankfully, ORC 4511.50 provides the answers. First off, a runner is always expected to run on a sidewalk when one is provided. Secondly, when a runner must absolutely run in the road because a viable sidewalk is not available, she is expected to run on the left side of the road as far on the shoulder as safely possible and facing traffic. This latter requirement is extremely important for a runner as it ensures her that she can see the vehicles approaching as it is never certain the driver will see the runner. As the runner is actually on the road, she must ultimately yield the road to the vehicles.
All this being said, no recitation of the Ohio Revised Code is going to save you when running and negotiating the perils of the road. Pages of paper will not protect you from becoming the hood ornament to the latest crossover SUV. So, please allow me to further provide some tips to runner and driver alike, to ensure paint jobs stay immaculate and runners keep running.
- Don’t text and drive. It is the law in Ohio, after all. I would say nearly 40% (unscientific poll with a rather wide range of human error) of the drivers I see on a daily run are not watching me at the stop sign or even the road, but rather their phones.
- Make eye contact. Runners should always make sure a driver at an intersection sees them before proceeding into the crosswalk or street—this is true whether the runner has the right of way or not.
- Look Right!! Drivers making a right turn (myself included) notoriously focus only to their left on oncoming traffic. Some go as far as to let their cars edge forward into the crosswalk or sidewalk as they seek their moment to break into rush hour traffic. Without looking to their immediate right, they can miss a runner or pedestrian waiting or actually trying to cross the street.
- Drivers please take a moment to make that last look to the right before pressing your gas pedal.
- Runners, please see #2.
- Runners wear bright clothing. You do not have to go all Wham! on us, but wearing light or bright clothing, to include fluorescent tape strips or vests ensures drivers have a better chance at seeing you (assuming they are not texting).
- Ditch the headphones. Or, at least turn them down as you go-go, so you can hear ambient sounds over your Wham! Greatest Hits Volume II playing on your iPod.
Again, I implicate myself amongst the drivers of the world who can do better in dealing with ever increasing distractions. But as runners and drivers, we can all be a little safer in taking a breath and reminding ourselves of good habits to go along with good laws.
Scot Ganow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937.610.0444.