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Pedestrian safety is no accident

Pedestrian safety is a two-way street: Drivers must be aware of pedestrians and what they might do, and pedestrians must be aware of drivers and what they might do. If both driver and pedestrian are aware of the other and obey the basics of vehicle and traffic law, vehicle-pedestrians crashes should be minimal.

First, drivers must yield for pedestrians at crosswalks and at intersections, even if there are no crosswalks painted on the street. At all intersections, there is an implied crosswalk even if none is painted.

Motorists should never block a crosswalk. If you can’t get past a crosswalk on the far side of an intersection because of backed up traffic, you should not enter the intersection, and you must stop prior to the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.

Drivers should obey posted speed limits and take extra care around schools, playgrounds and neighborhoods. They should always look out for pedestrians, especially turning either right or left at a green light, or making a right turn on red. Many near misses result from drivers turning at an intersection while not paying close attention to the possibility that a pedestrian is crossing the street that the driver wants to turn onto.

When a street has four lanes, like Main Street in Malone, it is illegal to pass another vehicle traveling in the same direction as you are if that vehicle is stopped for a pedestrian.

Pedestrian safety doesn’t just fall on motorists — pedestrians have to follow Vehicle and Traffic Law, and also be aware of their vulnerability compared to vehicles. A pedestrian will always lose a battle with a vehicle. Pedestrians should cross at intersections and marked crosswalks. If an intersection has a pedestrian walk signal, it is illegal to cross against the “walk” phase, even if there is no traffic. Push the button, and wait for the walk signal.

For all pedestrians, whether you are crossing on a walk signal or at a signalized intersection, always look left, right and then left again. It is best to make eye contact with the oncoming driver. Although most pedestrians believe they have the right of way if at a crosswalk, they don’t necessarily. VTL mandates that a pedestrian should not step into the crosswalk if an approaching vehicle is so close as to make it impractical for him/her to stop for the pedestrian. And if they are crossing mid-block, pedestrians have no rights over motorists — they can only cross if no vehicles are approaching from either direction.

Pedestrians are allowed by law to walk in the street or road IF there are no safe sidewalks available. If there is a safe sidewalk, it is illegal to walk in the street or road. If you must walk in the street or road, VTL states you must walk on the left side facing traffic. Too many local pedestrians do not obey this law. Pedestrians should also wear bright clothing so motorists can easily see them, especially at night.

As I have said in previous articles, there is safety in numbers. When many pedestrians are crossing at the same time, like in big cities, they are more visible to motorists than if it is just one pedestrian. In rural Franklin County, more often than not there is only one pedestrian.

To drivers, SEE, and to pedestrians, BE SEEN. Safety is no accident!

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