Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Apparently no one is being taught to stop and look both ways before stepping off the curb. Granted, pedestrians are supposed to have the right of way. However, they might at least give drivers a clue that they will be crossing the street in front of them.

Some years ago while driving slowly through a congested area I noticed two teenage girls walking on the sidewalk to my right in the opposite direction. They were involved in a conversation and giving their attention to each other. Imagine my surprise when they suddenly made a right turn in front of me at the crosswalk. With no "body language" signs that they would be crossing the street, no stopping at the curb to check the oncoming traffic, and no eye contact with the closest drivers -- they simply executed a right turn and stepped off the curb into the street without a break in their conversation.

It happened to me again today. This time it was two teenage boys walking in the same direction  I was driving. I was making a right turn into the post office and had stopped for two pedestrians who were in the driveway. Just before I made my right turn into the parking lot, the boys stepped off the curb right in front of me. Once again, no body language indicating their intent to cross the street, no eye contact with me to make sure that I saw them, no stop at the curb before crossing.

Last week at the park children were dashing across the drive on their way back to the parking lot without looking for cars. Fortunately, I expected as much and had slowed to a creep.

Today a woman was so intent on her smart phone she didn't notice I was backing out of a parking slot straight at her. Good thing I saw her before she noticed me. Months ago I had another encounter with a woman walking across the grocery store parking lot with a cell phone to her ear. Didn't look right or left -- just walked in front of me as I was leaving.

I was taught to stop at the curb and look both ways before crossing the street. As a human being it takes a few close calls to take the lesson seriously. After years as a pedestrian in downtown Portland I learned to always look over my left shoulder for drivers making a right turn before I crossed the street. Making eye contact with drivers was the surest method to make sure one was seen before entering the crosswalk.

I don't want to hit a pedestrian. I don't want to run over a child. I don't want to crumple a bicyclist. But as a driver I have a lot to watch out for. Like vehicles that are way bigger than our compact car. Other drivers who can't stay inside their lane or otherwise flaunt traffic laws. Bicyclists who are smaller than a car and faster than a pedestrian. I therefore use any and every clue I can observe to assure everyone's safety. So it would help me greatly if pedestrians would at the very least give a hint that they are desirous of being on the opposite side of the street.

Better yet -- stop at the curb, look both ways, and make eye contact with oncoming drivers even when you have the right of way at a crosswalk.

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