Lessons from grade school

It’s been a bad few weeks for pedestrians in Greater Victoria.

It’s been a bad few weeks for pedestrians in Greater Victoria.

Last week a truck struck and killed an elderly woman crossing Douglas Street. On Tuesday morning, a pickup struck a man walking across a crosswalk on Fort Street. Later that night, Victoria police responded to three hit-and-runs involving pedestrians and vehicles, fortunately with only minor injuries reported.

Each incident has its own circumstances, and in many cases drivers need to slow down and pay attention. But blame for pedestrians being hit can’t be entirely heaped on drivers – people need to be much more accountable for their own physical safety.

In studies and observations by the Capital Region Traffic Safety Commission, pedestrians can be surprisingly cavalier about their personal well-being while crossing the street.

In cases, pedestrians have activated flashing signs or walk signals, and crossed without so much as a sideways glance. With increasing frequency, people cross head-down while texting, emailing or watching videos on smartphones.

Many people assume that because they have the legal right-of-way in a crosswalk, traffic will automatically come to a halt. That’s a dangerous game of chicken, and legal rights are cold comfort after being mowed down by a 2,000 kilogram speeding box of metal.

It has been borne out in jurisdictions across North America that the “safer” a crosswalk is designed – flashing lights, high-visibility paint and lights embedded in crosswalk lines – the more pedestrians are hit.

This may seem counterintuitive, but Alan Perry, vice-chair of the Capital Region Traffic Safety Commission, says that the safer people feel when crossing the road, the less attention they pay to traffic. Signalized crosswalks create a “force field” mentality, he says.

For pedestrians, the answer to road safety come from grade school lessons. Wear clothing that can be seen, look both ways before crossing the road, make eye contact with drivers and don’t step out in front of moving traffic.