Drivers rarely yield for pedestrians at driveways, reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: My husband and I are daily pedestrians, walking two to five miles, for errands about town. We travel from Live Oak to downtown frequently on either Soquel Avenue or Water Street. These roadways have a lot of businesses and drivers are frequently entering or exiting driveways. Over the years, we have observed that 90 percent of drivers exiting the parking lot of a business only look in the direction of the oncoming traffic as they pull forward. They do not look both ways to see if pedestrians are approaching. After blocking the sidewalk, most wave us in front of them, which puts us into the roadway, where we will not go. So we stand there at their car and patiently wait for them to either back up and uncover the sidewalk or pull into traffic. To their credit, many drivers will see us approach and back up to allow us to pass. We always give them a smile and wave of appreciation. Will you kindly remind all drivers that looking both ways for pedestrians on the sidewalks is smart as well as considerate. Thank you, Jean Brocklebank, Live Oak A: Sure thing, Jean. That rule, yielding to pedestrians, also is in the California Driver handbook. It is best to stop before the sidewalk, treat it as a limit line at a stop sign or signal light. Look both ways, left, right and left again to scan for all kinds of traffic coming from both directions -- on foot and otherwise. Scanning the area to the right of the vehicle helps drivers see any oncoming cars that may be turning into the driveway they are exiting. By the way, get into the habit of looking both ways on one way streets, too. Not only look for pedestrians and cyclists coming from the opposite direction, but also drivers who may be coming from the wrong way. Scanning the area gives the brain all the information it needs to act accordingly. Not getting all the information before putting your vehicle into motion is how crashes happen. Read the driver handbook's section on right-of-way online at Q: As an eastside Santa Cruz resident, I frequently drive downtown by going west along Water Street and often experience the hazard of trying to turn left onto southbound River Street during busy traffic times. Due to the ill-conceived 'T' intersection, where only traffic along River Street has stop signs while vehicles approaching along the diagonal from Front Street continue to flow, traffic often backs up into the busy Water and River Street intersection. This can be a significant safety hazard for the traffic moving east and west along Water Street as well since vehicles sometimes have to merge around this clogged traffic trying to turn onto southbound River from westbound Water. It's my belief that these frequent hazardous conditions could be alleviated by turning the 'T' intersection at River and the diagonal from Front Street into a three-way stop. It is now just a two-way stop. This would mainly keep the eastbound traffic along Front from always having the right-of-way, often forcing traffic approaching from Water to back up past the traffic lights. I'd like to know if the city of Santa Cruz has considered any changes to alleviate this hazard. Niels Sundermeyer, Santa Cruz A: A study to find a fix will be launched soon. "Congestion is impacting Water Street as well," said Chris Schneiter, public works assistant director, while noting that collisions, so far, have not been an issue at this intersection. "We are in the process of hiring a traffic engineering consultant to study the traffic and propose short and long term solutions, one of which may be Mr. Sundemeyer's idea. We should have some ideas developed in the next three months and will take them to our transportation commission for public review."
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