Rules Of The Road Part 1: The Pedestrian Law: The Pros And Cons

SkillfulThere are many debatable issues regarding NJ driving laws, methods and habits. One such issue which seems to keep coming up lately is the new enforcement and guidelines regarding the pedestrian law. As much as this law has been discussed, there still seems to be some confusion regarding it’s definitions and parameters, as well as it’s justification and effectiveness. The wording and explanation of this law may be found on the NJ MVC site

Perhaps the following summary of the upsides and downsides this law has created would help put it in perspective.


1. One obvious flaw in this law is that it relies largely on the opinion and judgment of motorists and pedestrians. Being that to some degree there is a gray area here, where there is room for opinion (i.e. the driver of a vehicle may feel stopping would result in an accident, while the pedestrian feels there is ample time to stop), this law does rely on common sense being exercised, both on the side of the driver as well as the pedestrian. As we all know, common sense is not necessarily so common. When the law asks people to make a decision based on an opinion, there are bound to be differences of opinion, which may result in an accident. A typical example of such a case is by a traffic light which turns yellow. According to the NJ driver’s manual, one is required to stop “unless his/her vehicle is so close to the intersection that it cannot be stopped safely”. This means that if a motorist is traveling on Route 9, and they are just about under the light, they should not stop if they feel stopping would create an unsafe condition. The problem arises when the motorist in front decides they do have time to stop safely, and the motorist behind assumes they do not and should have gone through the yellow. Often, the result is that the motorist behind hits the front (stopped) car. Unfortunately, with this pedestrian law, there are some motorists who will brake suddenly because they see a pedestrian about to enter the crosswalk, while other motorists will speed up since they feel it is unsafe for them to stop. The results are quite often complete chaos.

2. One problem which has arisen is that once all cars have stopped for the pedestrian, the cars who have a stop sign (on the streets on either side of the stopped vehicle) will decide that it is now safe for them to take advantage of your momentary stop. They will use that time to cross the street or make a turn. On the surface this may not seem so bad. After all, if cars on the main road have to stop anyway for pedestrians, why can’t the cars on the side roads squeeze through in the interim wait? They know that the cars will wait until the pedestrian is safely out of the intersection, so it would be quite a waste not to go.

This logic is faulty for numerous reasons. The first being that the cars on the main road do NOT always wait until the pedestrian is completely out of the road, so the window of opportunity to cross the street may not be as wide and long as one may at first assume. Additionally, many times when the vehicle on the side street (without the right of way) decides to turn while the cars on the main street are waiting for the pedestrians, they do not realize that there could be quite a few pedestrians on both sides who are crossing, and by turning, they will endanger pedestrians.

One other drawback is when does the side street traffic stop? As we all know, people often “piggyback” when driving. They will ride on the tail of the car in front of them. This is a bad driving habit, but one which is unfortunately common. Before you know it, the people on the side street have “clotheslined” the people on the main street who should have right of way once the pedestrians are safely across the street.

3. This is one of those situations where you can almost not win. By enforcing the pedestrian laws so strongly, there has been a rash of pedestrians almost jumping into the intersection, sometimes without looking. Also, some pedestrians seem to misunderstand the law, and cross in middle of the block, or against a red light (although it is hard to blame that entirely on this law, as this kind of practice has been going on to some degree since roads were first built).

4. While the car in one lane of the road may clearly see the pedestrian who is about to cross, sometimes drivers on the other side of the street (opposing traffic) may have a difficult time seeing the pedestrian at first. This limited vision could be due to many factors, such as a truck turning left, parked cars etc. This will result in one side of the street stopping and letting the pedestrian through, only to have the pedestrian stop right in middle of the street because there were drivers who did not at first see them.
Another problem is that some drivers are not as aware as they should be. They will sometimes try to go around a stopped car, even if the stopped car is on their side of the road in front of them. This means that there is a danger of the front car being hit from behind if the second car can not see the pedestrian, or is simply not alert. There is also the danger of the second car going around the first one and endangering the pedestrians. Truthfully, this drawback is mentioned in the wording of the law as a precaution to drivers and pedestrians alike.

Rule of thumb for pedestrians: Just like when you are driving and are waiting to turn, if someone from opposing traffic stops, smiles and waves to you to go, look first before you go. There may be other cars and/or pedestrians who could be a danger to you or who could be in danger by your turn. The same applies to crossing. Do not give implicit trust to anyone, even if you feel pressured because they stopped just for you and waved you across. Even so, take a look around on your own, and don’t go based on trusting the driver who stopped and waved you across.

Rule of thumb for motorists: If by an intersection, or anywhere on the road for that matter, you see a lane stopped, whether it is on your side of the road or opposing traffic, be aware, and be prepared. Being prepared means covering the brake or actually braking, depending on the situation. There is probably a good reason why the car is stopped in middle of the road (unless it is someone giving a hitch, that is never a reason to stop in middle of the road, but I digress…). Also, remember to check your mirror(s) when you are stopping, or feel you may have to stop. After all, part of planning ahead is by looking behind.


1. Pedestrian awareness is one of the golden rules of driving which have largely been forgotten or ignored. For instance, ask any motorist why most stop signs are set so far back behind the corner? It would seem that there was an error in judgment when they placed the stop sign so far back, since it does not afford even a glimpse of either direction of the road. However, the real reason for the stop sign being so far back is to stop the driver before they block the sidewalk (crosswalk), in order to protect pedestrians. Needles to say, most motorists seem not to realize this as they barrel right past the stop sign itself, and sometimes even roll straight into another street without actually stopping. Yes, stop signs are a discussion for another time. However, the point is made that pedestrians are part and parcel of the right of way rules, and their safety should be built into the conscience of every driver at all times.

2. Honestly, anything which gives pause to drivers, and stops them from just speeding down roads is a good thing. Lakewood roads in particular have many potential dangers due to the ever changing dynamics on the roads. Sometimes drivers here have to deal with the totally unexpected and out of the ordinary (again, something for discussion at a later time). If a driver is now concerned and a bit more cautious as they approach an intersection; that is certainly a law worth exploring.

3. We have all seen pedestrians by intersections doing the “hokey pokey”. They will put one foot in, one foot out, start to walk, back up, then they will decide they to run across…. Of course this indecision will lead to problems all on their own. With a clearer awareness regarding pedestrian safety, some of the indecisiveness is cut out of the picture.

4. Many accidents involving pedestrians are caused by cars which are turning a corner. How many times can you remember walking across a street by a crosswalk on a green light only to have a car round the corner making a turn and stopping right before hitting you? By stressing pedestrian awareness, this may reduce such accidents by making motorists more sensitive and aware of judging the safety of their turn based not solely on cars, but also pedestrians.


While the downside issues are serious, there may be ways to limit or fix such problems. Certainly, the upsides of the law would justify trying to sustain a heightened level of pedestrian awareness to some degree.

The following are just some personal observations of how the lawmakers may possibly deal with the downsides to some degree. I believe there are many wiser heads out there on the scoop who could perhaps suggest other remedies. I certainly look forward to reading them. The ideal result would be a slew of realistic corrections which would hopefully gain the attention of those who can implement such changes.

Regarding issue #1 (opinions on the road may vary), The simplest solution may be to take out as much opinion as possible from the law. Meaning, perhaps apply the 2 second rule used in the following distances of cars. For instance, the law will state that if a pedestrian has entered the crosswalk, there is a five second rule until they may cross. Thus, if an approaching vehicle is 3 seconds away from the pedestrian, the car is not required to stop, whereas if they are 5 seconds away, they would have to stop by law. One would hope that most people will not have too much difficulty counting to 5 (then again, I am sure there would be a great debate if 5 seconds includes Mississippi or not). True, this will still vary based on the driver and pedestrian, but it will establish some sort of reaction time buffer for all parties.

Regarding issues #2, 3, and 4, the most obvious and best answer would be one simple word; “educate”. The laws have to be clarified and set down for the sake of pedestrians and motorists both. The state did announce the ruling, and in fact requested through it’s website that officials work to educate the public. The county and township collectively have made efforts to promote awareness of this new law, but there is still a lot of ignorance, in part or total, regarding this law. While this may not be as much of an issue for the town of nowhere, NJ, for Lakewood it is imperative that each and every person knows the laws clearly. If you will recall, Chief Lawson did an incredible job on his video presentation. He was clear and realistic in his explanation. Unfortunately, not everyone in Lakewood has access to such a venue.

We have seen asifas for many problems, and they have generally generated positive results. However, thus far, there has been no asifa regarding driving conditions in Lakewood. Perhaps with conditions worsening each week, now is the time to push again for such an asifa. The purpose of the asifa would be to try to have everyone on the same page for driving laws. There are some laws which many people are not aware of, and many which they may have forgotten because they are so obvious (mesilas yesharim). A review course certainly can’t hurt.

Yehoshua Eidlitz is an instructor with Skillful driving school of Lakewood, and can be reached at 732-363-0410.

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  1. Pedestrians, please take note: from twilight on, wear reflectors! It is sometimes almost impossible to see a pedestrian dressed in black as they cross a street.

  2. i drive in an area of town with heavy pedestrian traffic at 2pm with 2 crossing guards on both sides of the block. i’d like to mention a few points. 1. theres no reason for any body to be jaywalking.( not a good idea anywhere , but here theres no excuse.) 2. the crossing guards should tell the people to stay on the sidewalk when they finally let the traffic move. the rule stipulates that the drivers stop if the pedestrian is in the roadway. 3. rather be late than “the late”.

  3. I really love the last point the writer was trying to make. A community wide asifa would really be helpful in educating everyone of the massive chillul hashem and safety issues in this town.

  4. I’d just like to add that because of skillful driving school, I learned how to parallel park perfectly. I passed it on my driven test on my first attempt, and I’m able to utilize those skills in the real world as well. Thanks!

    P.S. When a driver in front of you is waiting to make a left turn, and there’s only a shoulder/off road, it is against the law to pass on the right, unless there is a designated driving lane on the right. This is a 4 point moving violation. The shoulder is meant to be used for parking, or pedestrians. No driving is allowed, unless you plan on parking your vehicle. I have personally seen (on many occasions) cars that passed on the right nearly hit other parked cars, people, trash cans, a snow pile, and the obvious, another driver obeying the law proceeding forward after the car in front completed their turn.

  5. Its nearly impossible for a pedestrian to see cars coming while standing on the curb. Many times you must go into the street to check both ways more so if its on a hill or anything else. Its the equivalent of a car coming to a stop sign and not being allowed to inch out just going on chance which is pretty dangerous. If everyone were required to stop the moment a pedestrian goes onto the street it would be pretty dangerous for everyone and like the writer states leaving laws to common sense can often lead to disastrous results. What would a red light law look like if it was left up to common sense.

  6. I too know Yehoshua Eidlitz and he is an erlach and fine Yid. He also truly cares about peoples’ safety and operates an outstanding driving school. I feel that much of the accidents are caused by lack of middos on the road (i.e. “the road belongs to me” kind of thinking). Let’s all try to be more thougtful and courteous when we are behind the wheel!

  7. Great article! Way too many accidents lately in Lakewood and it seems to be getting worse all the time. It’s about time that we as a frum community put our heads together to try and reverse this trend while protecting lives (do we, Chas VeShalom need more deaths on the road to make this an important issue?).

  8. Hey…doesnt his brother in law fix cars?I hear he is a very patient and thurough teacher and tries not to give him too much business.Most of this town could use a refresher course.

  9. I would like to see the students of both colleges in Lakewood begin to cross at the CORNER and not in the middle of the road. It is so congested that pedestrians should also follow the rules of the road for everyone’s safety.

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