Tuesday January 8, 2013

Time and time again we’ve used this space to expound upon the values of pedestrian and driver safety. And we do so with the hope that redundancy is key.

Thankfully, unlike last year when we tackled this issue, there haven’t been a rash of pedestrian-related accidents to make folks stand up and take notice of the issue. Perhaps that means more people are heeding the warnings and taking advice from authorities. But you know what they say about complacency ....

While reports of pedestrian accidents are few and far between, members of the editorial board continue to see the same troubling occurrences in and around town on a regular basis: people walking in the breakdown lane of Rt. 119, after dark, wearing nothing but dark clothing; people darting out, into traffic on Main Street in Brattleboro, from between parked cars trying to "beat the light" (in one troubling case, it appeared to be a parent clutching a young child’s hand); overall indifference to crosswalks and/or their related lights; drivers speeding up to avoid being stuck at a red light; drivers passing stopped cars on the right-hand side (Are they stopped to turn, or to let someone cross the street? Do you know?); and so on.

Remember: In cases of vehicles versus pedestrians, we all know who wins. It only takes one tragedy to be brutally reminded of this fact. There’s always plenty of ways to make pedestrians and drivers safer: Better, more well-lit streets; Reflective clothing for those walking after dark; Crossing guards on busy corners; Jaywalking enforcement; More police presence; etc.

We think one thing is clear: education (knowing and understanding the keys to pedestrian and driver safety) and action (acting on that understanding) will save lives.

Stepping off a curb, crossing the street, walking alongside the road, riding a bike ... these are all activities that put us in danger of an unfortunate encounter with unforgiving metal. Look twice before crossing the road, even at a crosswalk with a walk light. Stepping off the curb? Look before you leap. Walking along the side of the road? Do it facing traffic, so you can see what’s heading your way.

Riding a bike? How about a mirror so you can see what’s behind you? And don’t just assume that because you’re in a bike lane that a driver is aware of you. Out after dark? Dress appropriately. Drivers need to always pay attention to the road and look ahead for any potential problems. A driver’s only "safety" is their awareness of what’s going on around them. That means put down the electronic devices. The same goes for pedestrians.

Remember: Being aware of your surroundings could save your life or the lives of those around you. Safety can never be taken for granted, nor should it be, and lives can and do change in the blink of an eye.