Crossing the street should be as simple as, well, crossing the street. But some pedestrians in Wausau say it's anything but that.
A state law may not be making it easier, either.
Take Lori Agacki of Wausau, for example. We found her waiting to cross the street near the Marathon County Public Library. Only after several cars go by did she get her chance.
"I certainly don't want to get run over," said Agacki.
She obeyed the law by waiting until traffic was clear to start walking. But so did the car that drove by as she waited. State law doesn't require cars to stop until a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.
"Once they make that entry into the crosswalk, the traffic going both directions is required to yield the right of way to the pedestrians," said Wausau Police Lt. Nathan Pekarske.
So who makes the first move—the car or the pedestrian?
"If they stop and they wave at me to go, I'll certainly go," said Agacki.
But that doesn't happen often as Michael Berk of Wausau knows well.
"Wausau's kind of a small area, but crossing the street is like trying to cross the street in a big city," he said.
It's a law even Wausau police admit is confusing—pedestrians waiting to cross versus cars stopping for them. But once a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, police say the law becomes very clear.
"You need to stop and let pedestrians completely cross the intersection before you continue to drive forward," said Lt. Pekarske.
But that doesn't happen often either. Newsline 9 watched as one man crossed the street near the library. While he was still in the crosswalk, a car drove by him.
We also saw a car cut around a group of pedestrians and even drive a few yards in the left lane of traffic, also near the library.
But not many violators are held accountable.
Last year Wausau police issued just five citations for this, and none so far this year, according to records released by the police department.
"It's not something that we stop somebody for every single day," said Pekarske. He says officers balance many demands. This area doesn't always get attention.
"It's the vehicle operator's responsibility to be aware of them and to be respectful and courteous," said Pekarske.
With that in mind, pedestrians have a plea for drivers.
"If you see somebody that needs to cross the street, the least you could do is let them cross," said Berk. "You're doing to get where you're going a lot faster than they are."
In Wausau, at least, that certainly seems to be the case.
State law also says pedestrians have to make sure they don't suddenly walk or run in front of cars. Otherwise they could be cited.
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