At street intersections, the painted crosswalk lines seem more common than ever. In our metropolitan area, most of those crosswalks have no traffic light. Some have a traffic light that works when triggered by a pedestrian. All the crosswalks are confusing.
With painted crosswalk lines, who has the “right of way”?
Ethan J., Bethesda, Md.
Almost always, the pedestrian has the right of way. However, given the ignorance and inattentiveness of drivers, that does not ensure the pedestrian’s survival. Regrettably by the millions, pedestrians with the right of way have been killed or permanently injured. Unlike the pedestrian, a moving vehicle is a deadly weapon. For purposes of this topic, pedestrians are in the same category as people on bicycles, scooters, skateboards, etc.
Despite the vast increase in painted crosswalk lines, citizens do not comprehend their meaning. When encountering a crosswalk, drivers and pedestrians fail dramatically. Throughout the population, Ethan’s confusion is as common as the crosswalks. This ambiguity is enhanced by pedestrians waiting to cross versus pedestrians having started to cross. It also occurs at the intersections where a traffic light operates only when the pedestrian presses a button.
To simplify, I will offer two pieces of advice. The first is to drivers. The second is to pedestrians along with people on bicycles, scooters, skateboards, etc. Though pedestrians can be killed or injured by people on bicycles, scooters, and skateboards, the latter are in the same unfortunate position when hit by a car. In the interest of vigilance, here are my recommendations.
1. For drivers, please stop when a pedestrian has begun crossing the street or is waiting to cross the street. That does not mean “slow down.” That means “stop.” When there is a traffic light at the crosswalk, the blinking yellow light and blinking red light means you should stop. In addition, those blinking lights mean you should observe very carefully. When there is absolutely no pedestrian on the crosswalk, you can continue driving. Most relevantly, pay attention.
2. For pedestrians, cross at a traffic light instead of a crosswalk whenever possible. Of course, wait for the green light. Should you find it necessary to cross at a crosswalk, presume the drivers are not paying attention when you cross. Otherwise, the life lost is yours and not the faulty driver.
Yet again, prevention is easier than correction.
Jerry Romansky is a syndicated columnist. Readers are invited to write in English or Spanish: Ask Jerry, Post Office Box 42444, Washington DC 20015. E-mail email@example.com and (because of spam situation) write the name of your newspaper in subject heading. Questions of popular interest are answered in the column. Unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.