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Jaywalkers Face Hefty Fine in Napa

$159 for crossing the street? That's the fine if you're caught and cited for jaywalking.

Jaywalking might get you across the street faster, but it is against the law.

If caught and issued a citation by police, the jaywalker is looking at a $159 fine -- a stiff price to pay to save a few steps.

According to the state vehicle code, pedestrians are only allowed to cross a street between two intersections when they are in a marked crosswalk, said Sgt. Paul Paniagua, who is charge of the department’s traffic division.

“Pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections, even if there is not a marked crosswalk,” he said.

Paniagua said he cannot recall the last time there was a fatal jaywalking pedestrian and vehicle collision downtown Napa.

“We had one a few years back where two people who were not in a crosswalk walked across Redwood Road near Solano Road. They both were struck by a car. One of them died,” he said.

“We don’t heavily patrol the downtown area for jaywalkers. Unless someone’s jaywalking causes a near accident, we usually just give the jaywalkers a warning,” Paniagua said.

He said with the increased growth of businesses and foot traffic downtown, that could change.

“If we have close-call incidents or see an increase with jaywalking problems, we will step up downtown patrol,” Paniagua said.

Paniagua was not able to say if there were more locals or tourists who jaywalk.

“We just don’t have any type of statistics on that. Most likely, it is a mixed bag,” he said.

In addition to cutting across streets without using crosswalks, many people also cross the street against red lights, Paniagua said.

“That can be very dangerous. When a motorist sees a green light, they just  assume all is right for them to drive through the intersection.”

Paniagua said jaywalkers come in all sizes.

“We have young and old, people pushing strollers, holding a toddler’s hand and even a few handicapped people who jaywalk.”

In the past, Napa police have done sting operations in the city’s crosswalks, nabbing motorists who cut off pedestrians using them.

“And we plan to do more in the future,” Paniagua said.

Once a pedestrian steps off the curb into a crosswalk and starts across the street, they own that stretch of the street, Paniagua said.

Motorists are required by law to wait until the pedestrian has reached the other side of the street before driving through the crosswalk.

But Paniagua stressed pedestrians also have a responsibility.

“A person can’t just dart out into the street in a crosswalk without checking for traffic first,” he said.

“They have to make sure it is safe for them to cross the street.”

Bicyclists must obey all traffic laws the same as motorists. They are to ride with the flow of traffic and walk their bikes across the street, Paniagua said.

“Pedestrians have to realize they don’t stand much of chance if they get hit by a moving vehicle,” he said. “Even at 30 miles per hour, a pedestrian/vehicle crash could prove fatal for the pedestrian.”

Paniagua said young children are closer to the ground and if there is a collision, they tend to be dragged under the car, whereas adults risk being thrown onto the hood of the car and into the windshield.

A couple of downtown Napa shoppers expressed their views on jaywalking.

Marty Holman said, “I know I have jaywalked more times than I can remember. I always make sure it is safe, but I never thought of getting a citation,” he said.

“I guess I better be more careful.”

Gary Streeter has a gripe about pedestrians crossing in the middle of the street or against a red light.

“It’s downright rude. They don’t give a thought to the motorist’s rights,” he said.

“And it seems as if they always take their sweet time to cross the street. Man, that ticks me off. Who do they think they are?”

Tom Ontis August 16, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Raise your hand if you have NEVER jaywalked in Napa or anyplace else! Guilty as charged.
Veronica August 16, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I knew that once a pedestrian steps off the sidewalk, a motorist needs to yield and allow him/her to cross. I thought once the pedestrian was more than halfway across (past the lane of the motorist), it was legal to start going again? What's the law say?
P. Hall August 17, 2011 at 10:56 PM
Veronica, the law is what the officer stated. I know he didn't just make that up. Matter of fact I know what he said is the LAW. But believe me most people are not aware of that.
Roger Simons August 18, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Wow, the NPD is really hard up for your hard earned cash. Save a dime and look both ways to make sure a cop isn't hiding in the bushes before you cross that completely empty street. LOL

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