you're reading...

Cornelius News

US pedestrian deaths are at highest level in decades. Here are some tips from Chief Baucom

Challenges crossing the street

June  27. By Dave Yochum. More than 7,500 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle accidents last year, continuing a troubling trend of elevated rates that began in 2020. Indeed, deaths of people walking surged 19 percent between 2019 and 2022. Pedestrian deaths rose a troubling 77 percent between 2010 and 2021, compared to a 25 percent rise in all other traffic fatalities.

This all hit close to home Nov. 30, when a pedestrian was killed while trying to cross West Catawba in an area devoid of cross walks. There are pedestrian crossing lights on Jetton and Westmoreland but not that part of West Catawba.

Police Chief David Baucom explains what to do when pedestrian meets motorist:

Q: We’ve noticed some cars don’t stop when the amber pedestrian crossing lights are flashing. Most do, so what is the protocol, for example, when a pedestrian has made halfway across or three quarters of the way? while most do and some time it so they cruise through right behind you.

Chief Baucom

Chief Baucom: Vehicles are required to stop once a person steps into the roadway to cross. The crossing at Jetton has yellow caution lights, however vehicles are not required to stop for the yellow flashing lights during normal travel. If a pedestrian enters the crosswalk, vehicles are required to stop and stay stopped until the pedestrian crosses the roadway. This location is a divided highway, so vehicles are only required to stop until the pedestrian crosses to the median.

Q: Should pedestrians wait until there is a lull in traffic before pressing the crossing button? (That’s what we do, but sometimes cars stop, just because they’ve seen us on one side of Jetton, while the other side is still thick with traffic.) What’s the best practice for the pedestrian?

Chief Baucom: The lights are only a warning or caution indicator that there is a pedestrian wanting to cross. Pedestrians should always wait until they see they can walk across safely. Once a pedestrian steps into the crosswalk, vehicles are required to stop, but pedestrians need to consider a motorist needs time to recognize them as crossing. A crosswalk on a divided highway is considered two separate crosswalks, vehicles traveling on the opposite side of the median are not required to stop until the pedestrian steps into the road to cross, but again, they need to consider a vehicle’s distance and speed to give vehicles time to recognize them.

Q: If drivers see no one in the crosswalk, can they proceed at a normal speed?

Chief Baucom: Yes, they can also proceed as normal if someone is just standing by the road at the crosswalk.

Q: On Westmoreland, if it’s flashing red and no one is in the crosswalk, can drivers proceed? We have seen some driver confusion.

Chief Baucom: They can proceed only after coming to a complete stop and making sure the can proceed safely, a flashing red light should be treated the same as a stop sign. That crossing also has a solid red light function and vehicles are required to stay stopped until the red light goes to flash, and they can proceed safely.

Q: What should a pedestrian do if they’re not near an intersection, and need to cross the street? What’s your advice?

Chief Baucom: My advice first and foremost is to walk to a designated crosswalk. Pedestrians can cross at other locations however they are required to give the right of way to vehicles. They should also consider their own safety and only cross when it is safe to do so. They should consider how fast a vehicle might be traveling and the distance away from them before they make the decision to cross.

Q:  In Charlotte, pedestrians get a several-second lead on motor vehicles when the light turns green. Any thoughts?

Chief Baucom: That is correct, this is to give pedestrians a lead time. This seems more prevalent in urban areas where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic.

Q: Why is it a good idea for cyclists to dismount when crossing at pedestrian crosswalk? When might it be best for cyclists to negotiate a green light more like a motor vehicle, i.e. in the driving lane?

Chief Baucom: Crosswalks are for pedestrians to cross the road on foot. A bicycle ridden through a cross walk is considered a vehicle and is afforded no protections of a crosswalk. A bicyclist wanting to use the crosswalk is required to dismount (becoming a pedestrian) before crossing. As a vehicle, a bicyclist should travel in the lanes of travel and follow all traffic laws, when negotiating a green light, they should proceed as any other vehicle. Bicyclist as vehicles are required to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

For a  thorough guide to crosswalks and pedestrian safety, click here.