On Tuesday, Street Smarts published a letter from a reader who was adamant that drivers do all they can to not risk pedestrian lives. That means keeping an eye out for them, obeying traffic laws and slowing down when passing pedestrians who are on a sidewalk-less street.
Well, today, Street Smarts would like to tell pedestrians that they must look out for their own safety, as well. I say this because on Monday, I almost hit three pedestrians who darted out in from of my car at the last minute.
It was around 4 p.m. when I was driving on a well-populated arterial road somewhere in Santa Cruz County. There was moderate to heavy traffic. The posted speed limit is 25 mph but we were moving nowhere near that through this stop light-rich stretch of road. As I pulled up to the intersection I planned to turn right at, I spied the green light and took note of some pedestrians walking on the sidewalk several doors down from the street corner.
Making a mental note of their progress down the sidewalk as I passed them, I turned my attention to scan all other directions of the intersection to make sure nothing else was coming. After seeing the intersection was clear, I began making my turn. Then my peripheral vision caught movement to my right, my head snapped in their direction and I slammed on the brakes.
Two small children and an older girl — not sure if she was a teen or small woman — were no longer walking on the sidewalk. They were running and bounded into the crosswalk. After they stepped off the high curb, the smallest child’s head was barely visible over the hood of my car. As my car bucked to a stop, I saw that I was inches from hitting her. A flash of what could’ve been overcame me.
Pedestrians, yes drivers must look out for you and take steps to not endanger your life, but that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. That’s why there are traffic laws you must obey, too.
Among them is, and this applies to all road users, never demand right of way. In a joust with a moving automobile, the pedestrian always loses. Pedestrians are to make sure there are no vehicles close enough to do them harm before stepping off the curb. You also are to get eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you and fully stop so you can cross the road safely. The red hand signal on the traffic light standard means “DON’T WALK.” Don’t walk means stay on the curb and wait your turn.
Parents, please teach your children how to properly cross the road and make sure you follow the rules yourself. Lead by example. Practice what you preach.
Learn the rules of the road as they pertain to pedestrians at www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/curriculum/Unit%209.pdf.
Drivers, here are some tips for you to follow around pedestrians: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/right_of_way.htm.