Santa Rosa reader Tina Janulaw shared this recent incident, one that was inspired by kindness but almost ended badly. Did she do the wrong thing?

“Last week  I was driving north on Yulupa Avenue past the shopping center where Whole Foods and Petco are located and I noticed a girl and her small dog on the other side of the road waiting to cross the four lanes of traffic,” she wrote. “I was in the middle northbound lane and noticed that there was no southbound traffic at that moment. So I decided to stop to let her get across while those lanes were open.

“To my horror, as soon as she got in front of my car a large vehicle rapidly approached in the northbound lane to my right, on a collision course with the girl and her dog. Luckily a woman on the sidewalk waved her arms and screamed at the vehicle and it stopped just in time. It was so close that it took me a while to be calm enough to drive again.

“Should I not have stopped for her since I was on the other side of the road?”

Unless the woman was already walking across the street when Janulaw stopped, it was the wrong thing to do, says Officer Jon Sloat, the local CHP spokesman. Janulaw may have meant well, but “she made it unsafe for the pedestrian,” he said.

She also made it unsafe for herself and others on that road that day. First, most drivers don’t expect a car to be stopped in the middle of the lane. Second, Janulaw’s car hid the pedestrian from view and kept the woman from seeing any cars approaching on the right.

Good intentions, wrong choice but, in this case, no harm done.


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  1. smurf

    I have a similar problem in trying to be “kind” by letting people onto the freeway. Apparently, people are so used to NOT being allowed on, that many times, they keep slowing down to let me pass, while I am slowing to let them on, and before I know it, I am doing 40 and if I were to speed up at that point, I would most certainly run them off the road. I try waving them on with big gestures to let them know what I am doing, but they don’t get it. One person actually pulled over to the side of the road. While I was venting to my husband that this person wouldn’t just get on the danged freeway, I told him, I bet she’s at home venting to her husband about the witch who tried to run her off the road! A far cry from what I was doing. I would like to keep being kind, but it seems it’s so unusual these days that I am doing more harm than good.

    I am glad that this case of the pedestrian with the dog ended well.

    March 5th, 2013 8:27 am

  2. Elizabeth

    Scary! The letter doesn’t say if there was a crosswalk or not. If there was, I guess you’re supposed to stop, though if you’re on the other side of the street and the person has not started crossing, it seems dangerous to do so.

    I have seen people do this where there is no crosswalk, not thinking that other drivers won’t know what’s happening and won’t be planning to stop. It’s highly dangerous, and violates the common knowledge of right-of-way rules of the road.

    In either case, please do not be a “good Samaritan” and wave people across unless you are physically stopping traffic with your own body. It only puts the pedestrian and other drivers at risk.

    March 5th, 2013 10:48 am

  3. Sarah

    Actually, smurf, freeway traffic has the right of way when someone is approaching.

    I realize you’re trying to be kind, but it’s always tough on me when someone is slowing down to let me in. As the person entering the freeway, I expect you to keep going and I will adjust my speed accordingly and find the gap. When you slow down, it’s dangerous to the cars behind you and the person entering the freeway. While not everybody KNOWS that you have the right-of-way, it’s still the right thing to do. If the entering car still insists on jumping in front of you, then let them; otherwise just keep going full speed ahead. :)

    March 5th, 2013 10:51 am

  4. Samuel Coble

    i think there needs to be some kind of continuing education for drivers because i see this kind of thing A LOT, and it can be VERY unsafe. i see people turning right who are yielding to the cars turning left (which is incorrect–the left turn must yield to oncoming AND right turning vehicles); i see cars stopped to wait when they are on the ‘thru-street’ and would serve the flow of traffic better by NOT being so kind and courteous. the road-ways are like electrical lines; they need to be kept “flowing”. if an individual breaks the flow just to be “kind”, they are showing a poor understanding for system in its entirety.

    March 5th, 2013 10:56 am

  5. Sarah

    I am also confused by what Officer Sloat had to say on pedestrian crossing. Per the CA DMV handbook (http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/right_of_way.htm), it says this to drivers of motor vehicles:

    “Remember, if a pedestrian makes eye contact with you, he or she is ready to cross the street. Yield to the pedestrian.”

    It also says this:
    “Do not pass a vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk. A pedestrian you cannot see may be crossing the street. Stop, then proceed when all pedestrians have crossed the street.”

    Obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world. But I find it confusing that Officer Sloat says not to stop at all. How about trying to cross 4th street at 8am on my way to the dog park? Am I to wait until there are no cars at all? I’d be there all morning!

    No pun intended, but I believe it is a 2 way street. Pedestrians need to decide to cross when cars are at a safe stopping distance away. But when the street is busy and there is no end in sight, if one car makes eye contact w/the pedestrian and decides to stop, then it’s also up to the other drives to be aware that a car is stopping at the crosswalk and they, too, must come to a stop.

    Again – I know it’s not a perfect world, but ultimately I’m just advocating for people to drive with more awareness, less distractedness and more patience.

    March 5th, 2013 11:07 am

  6. Jeff

    This reminds me of the ‘nice’ folks who stop at intersections where they do not have a stop sign, then wave another car who DOES have a stop sign through. Please, just adhere to the rules. I realize you’re being nice, but you’re just causing confusion and mixed signals.

    For ‘smurf’, you were in the wrong. It is the entering vehicle’s responsibility to accelerate to freeway speeds- it’s not your position to slow down to let a car in- unless you were tailgating the car in front of you, and were trying to make room for a legal merge. You slowing causes the car behind you to slow, and so on, disrupting the flow of traffic. Maintain reasonable following distances, and everything should work itself out just fine.

    March 5th, 2013 11:08 am

  7. Patrick

    This is why it is important for drivers to follow the rules of the road. These kinds of behaviors are disruptive to the flow of traffic.
    If you want to help some one have a clear merge path move over a lane to the left, don’t unexpectedly slow down, as in all likelihood you are in the their blindspot and making the merging more complicated then it needs to be.

    March 5th, 2013 11:12 am

  8. Bonnie Peterson

    But isn’t it the law to stop for someone in a crosswalk? Wouldn’t the first driver be sited if she were to just keep driving? Isn’t it the responsibility of the second driver to be aware of a potential hazard in the roadway…and slow down?

    March 5th, 2013 11:18 am

  9. Vinyl Rules

    Kindness and social graces on the roadway gets people killed. Driving is not a social interaction where you should be concerned with other’s feelings. Just follow the rules, and everyone will get where they are going safely and efficiently. In other words, if you are “waving someone in”, you are risking the lives of everyone on the road. Stop being nice and just drive!

    March 5th, 2013 11:47 am

  10. Naomi Williams

    Another example: When I’m on my bicycle on Beaver trying to cross College, cars frequently stop in the middle of the lane and try to wave me across in an effort to be nice. In actuality, it totally throws off my timing, and as you said, it sometimes blocks my view of another lane where traffic can be coming.

    March 5th, 2013 12:19 pm

  11. smurf

    Thanks to those of you who left feedback. I appreciate it. No, I do not tailgate, but I do drive slower in the slow lane in an effort to conserve gas. I do between 55 and 60. I fear you are right, and I am doing the wrong thing. I will adjust my habits accordingly. Thank you again for the kind responses!

    March 5th, 2013 12:56 pm

  12. JCB

    Part of the confusion here is the lack of mention if there was a crosswalk or not. Officer Jon Sloat should have made it clear that if there was a crosswalk then of course you must stop before the person steps off the curb or if you arrive and they have already stepped off the curb you must stop. Regardless of the cross walk, if there is a vehicle stopped already, a second vehicle must stop was well. If no one is in the road and there is no known reason to remain stopped, the second vehicle may proceed. The 1st person in this situation maybe should not have stopped but by all means, the second vehicle HAD to stop no matter what. To place blame on the driver is moot because there was a person in the road already.

    March 5th, 2013 1:01 pm

  13. Patrick

    Another place I see dangerous courtesy all the time is on roundabouts. The vehicles in roundabout have the right of way. Nearly everyday I see drivers the roundabout near my office stop and wave people into the traffic circle.

    March 5th, 2013 1:23 pm

  14. Dan Drummond Sr

    I’d turn on my emergency blinkers to warn everyone that there is a dangerous situation. Just like I do when someone tailgates my car. It does seem to slow down most other drivers and draws attention to the unsafe situation. Sometimes people are just texting and don’t realize how close they are to my car.

    March 5th, 2013 1:56 pm

  15. Road.Warrior

    Just to clarify, Officer Sloat’s response was based on the supposition that the pedestrian wasn’t using a designated crosswalk.

    March 5th, 2013 2:49 pm

  16. Robert

    Same thing happens to me constantly when I am stopped at a stop sign while on my bicycle and cross traffic is not controlled. People stop in the middle of the street and try to wave me through the intersection. In some cases the stopped vehicle will cause others to slam on their brakes.
    Would you stop in the middle of the street to allow a car to cross traffic or make a left? How about a motorcycle? No you wouldn’t. Treat bicycles as a vehicle, just don’t cut us off.

    March 5th, 2013 4:25 pm

  17. Tina

    It was at a designated crosswalk.

    March 5th, 2013 5:01 pm

  18. Jeff

    Common Sense: It is not safe to wave someone on to cross a street where there is no crosswalk. ESPECIALLY A KID AND THEIR DOG.


    March 5th, 2013 5:11 pm

  19. Jeff

    Don’t kill them with stupidness should be the title.

    March 5th, 2013 5:14 pm

  20. Tina


    March 5th, 2013 6:00 pm

  21. Elizabeth

    Dan, I have also started turning on my emergency blinkers when there is a person or other unforeseen obstacle on the road. It can only help to draw attention to the fact that a hazard exists and drivers are slowing down or stopping for a reason.

    March 5th, 2013 7:07 pm

  22. Paul Harris

    I agree with Sarah and what the California vehicle code says, see above. Officer Sloat has done a disservice to motorists and pedestrians. Is this why so many pedestrians are hit and killed in Sonoma County, wrong information is given out by law enforcement?

    March 6th, 2013 6:02 am

  23. smurf

    Wow, it stayed a pleasant thread all of that time…..

    March 6th, 2013 10:00 am

  24. Road.Warrior

    Give Officer Sloat a break. We didn’t know at the time of our discussion that the pedestrian was in a crosswalk, so he answered a very specific question about the pluses and minuses of stopping in traffic to wave a pedestrian across.

    March 6th, 2013 11:58 am

  25. Matthew S

    This post will be a subject in my TVS classes for the next several weeks. A few points:
    A) When writing in, please clarify ALL details (Thx to Tina for clarifying in thread there WAS a Crosswalk)

    B) Thx to Sarah for citing the VC sections on this subject. The main link to the State Vehicle Code book (which instructors have in class -not just the handbook) – is: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/vc.htm

    C) For Pedestrians & Motorists….there are many variations of stopping distance taking into consideration road condition, tire condition, reaction time, braking time and speed. Rule of thumb I teach w/o all the references: If a car is going 35MPH in PERFECT conditions it takes 108 ft to stop. Keep this in mind when crossing the street or approaching a crosswalk. OR use this as a guide: you should need about 200 feet between your car and the approaching car to make a left hand turn – keep it in mind before stepping off a curb or when approaching a crosswalk – especially one NOT controlled by electronic crossing / lights.

    I could go on but good discussion by all posters above.

    Hopefully, I won’t be seeing you in class soon…but some of you will get some continuing / refresher info when you do (And Samuel, you’re welcome to sit in on a class if you’d like!) :)

    March 11th, 2013 1:49 am

  26. Tina

    Hi Matthew S,
    Thank you for the information. I had actually included the name of the intersection in the title of my email (Yulupa and Princeton Drive), and also mentioned that the intersection should have a flashing crosswalk sign above like many other crosswalks in that neighborhood have. But that information was not included in the blog so it was a little confusing.

    March 13th, 2013 10:56 am

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