Crosswalk lines

The crosswalk has a white picture of a walking man as you near the intersection. Before you get to the curb, it switches to a red hand. Next to that hand, though, numbers start counting down from 10. You have a full 10 seconds to get across the road, so you step off of the curb and jog across the street.

Then a police car pulls up, the officer gets out, and he gives you a ticket.

What the Numbers Really Mean

North Carolina began cracking down on jaywalkers last fall, when they had a string of deaths after pedestrians were hit by cars, and police took the time to carefully explain the crosswalk law. It's a law that many people do not actually understand, even when they know they are supposed to cross with the light and at marked crosswalks, avoiding obvious cases of jaywalking.

Essentially, the numbers are just there to inform people who may already be in the crosswalk that the time to get across the road is limited. However, you can't start walking when the numbers are already flashing, which is what the red hand indicates. You must start during the white walk symbol, and you can then continue until the numbers count down to zero.

The reasoning is basically that, when the timer runs out, the traffic light itself is about to change. Police do not want people thinking they can legally run into the street with just a second or two left on the countdown, finding themselves in the middle of the road when traffic starts moving again.

Car vs. Pedestrian Accidents

You may consider this an unimportant law or a minor detail, but it becomes incredibly important if a pedestrian is hit by a car. Injuries can be extensive, even at low speeds, and fatalities are common. When determining fault, which party followed the traffic laws becomes the key, so it's important for drivers and pedestrians to actually understand the local laws both before and after an accident.