Our View…Give us a brakeEver feel what it’s like to get caught smack in the middle of a busy city street with cars zooming by on both sides – with no opening to get safely to the other side? Even if the experience only lasts a few hair-raising seconds, it is terrifying to stand there and realize just how vulnerable you are.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Ever feel what it’s like to get caught smack in the middle of a busy city street with cars zooming by on both sides – with no opening to get safely to the other side? Even if the experience only lasts a few hair-raising seconds, it is terrifying to stand there and realize just how vulnerable you are.
Sometimes, a kindly motorist may slow down or stop to let you try to dash across, only to have the car behind him come to a screeching stop dangerously close to his bumper, or worse yet, swerve out and around him – and straight at you!
Sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of – and yet, it is all too real. The number of pedestrian fatalities in Minnesota remains at about 40 per year, even though total fatalities on state roads have been steadily decreasing, according to Sue Groth, MnDOT state traffic engineer.
“This is an important area to focus on,” said Groth, “because pedestrians are more vulnerable than motorists who are protected by the vehicle, seatbelts and air bags during a crash.”
Currently, the state is embarking on a campaign to try to increase the percentage of motorists and pedestrians who follow the Minnesota crosswalk law and exhibit safe walking and driving behaviors, since October is traditionally the deadliest month for pedestrians.
And while such campaigns are worthwhile, the thing that really matters is what each of us practices day to day.
The one thing that is most straightforward is the law – according to Minnesota Statute 169.21, the driver of a vehicle must stop to yield to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. That means that every corner is a crosswalk, whether it’s marked or not. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane on which the vehicle is stopped.
And don’t forget about those areas in front of grocery stores or big box retailers that have stop signs and/or crosshatched walkways to guide shoppers safely between the store and the parking area. Way too often vehicles arbitrarily come to the mandatory stop at the sign and then proceed forward, despite the fact there are people still entering the crosswalk. It’s almost as though they don’t realize that is the reason for the stop sign.
There is a burden of responsibility on pedestrians as well. Pedestrians should attempt to make eye contact with drivers before proceeding into the crosswalk and not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it would be impossible for the driver to yield.
Another area where our kids, especially, are vulnerable is on the streets and intersections as they walk to school. They can know and follow all the basics of safety, but they won’t be truly safe unless motorists follow the rules, too. A child stepping out from between parked cars, or hesitating for a moment as he or she steps off the curb, can be just the unexpected action that puts them into the path of danger if motorists are rushing, distracted or talking on a cell phone.
In addition, there have been several incidents right here in Cloquet involving motorists driving negligently in the vicinity of school crossing guards. That means double indemnity – risking the health and welfare of both the school patrol volunteers and the children they are helping to get across the street.
It all seems so straightforward and sensible, but a moment’s distraction can mean a lifetime of regret.
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