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Reader clarifies pedestrian rule for drivers

I must say that I have loved your "Who Taught YOU To Drive" columns since they started over a year ago. However, I believe that some of the crosswalk information given is misleading ("Reader road rage, unleashed," June 24, City Weekly).

You wrote, "The law says you have to stop only if someone is within 10 feet of your vehicle." That is not entirely correct. The 10-foot rule applies to the distance of the pedestrian to the vehicle operator's lane, and not his or her vehicle. It is not a huge difference, but still an important one.

When I read the Massachusetts crosswalk laws, it does not seem like the 10-foot rule applies at all times. According to Mass. General Laws Chapter 89, Section 11, the 10-foot rule applies only when a pedestrian is approaching from the opposite direction of a vehicle's traveling lane.

If a pedestrian were crossing a multilane, two-direction road, all vehicles traveling in the direction of the lanes nearest the pedestrian would have to stop until he or she passed. The same would apply to a multi lane one-way road, such as St. James Avenue at Copley Square.

Once a pedestrian enters that crosswalk, all vehicles would have to yield since they are in that "traveled part of the way" even if their lane is over 10 feet away.

As someone whose daily commute is made by walking, I would appreciate it if you could let me know if I have misinterpreted the law cited above. I will forgo any comments about the horrendous Boston bicyclists for now!

Matthew Giberti
Back Bay

Reporter Peter DeMarco replies:

Matthew is absolutely right. I inadvertently left off the phrase " if approaching from the other side of the divider line." Quoting my own column on crosswalks from July of last year : If a pedestrian is anywhere on your half of the street, the law says you've got to stop at the crosswalk. It's that simple. But if a pedestrian is coming across the street from the opposite side, it depends on how close he or she is to your car. According to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 89, Section 11, if a pedestrian is "within 10 feet" of your side of the street, you've got to stop. But if they're not, you can keep on driving -- even if they're in the crosswalk.

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