Our opinion: Safety first


Forgive us for sounding like a broken record, but with the privilege of driving around in a moving vehicle comes some inherent (and very serious) responsibilities.

Consider two recent news items for the sake of today's comments.

First, the tragedy on Western Avenue Friday night, where yet another pedestrian was struck and killed while out for a walk near Union Hill. The Massachusetts man was struck around 7 p.m. and died later from his injuries.

Since the driver fled the scene, we still have no idea what caused the crash.

Sadly, this was the third pedestrian fatality on Western Avenue in the past two years, and the fourth in Brattleboro.

It serves as a very serious reminder, to pedestrians and drivers alike, to be aware of their surroundings and follow some common-sense safety:

For drivers -- Watch the road, not your cell phones; If you must be on the phone, invest in a hands-free device; Disregard all other distractions (GPS, radios, screaming children in the backseat) or pull over if you need to address them; Let your conditions dictate your driving (slower in the rain and snow, or on darker roads); Pay attention to other people (those driving, or walking on the sidewalk -- a quick reaction could avoid a disaster); Follow the basic rules of the road (speed limits; rights of way, etc.).

For pedestrians -- Always be aware of your surroundings; If there's a crosswalk, use it (don't dart out into oncoming traffic from between parked vehicles); Even if you're using a crosswalk, look to make sure some distracted driver isn't about to run a red light (when it comes to vehicle vs. person, the machine will always win); Will you be out at night? Then be sure to wear light-colored clothing and (preferably) something that will reflect light (a jacket, vest, etc.); Always use caution.

Secondly, Monday's winter weather brought similarly themed, seasonal reminders for the above topic. For instance:

-- Even though it's not a law, is it too much to ask drivers to clean off their vehicles prior to driving around? All too often we see cars around town with a few spots cleared off the windshield and side windows, while inches of snow remain on the hood, roof and trunk. It won't take too much for that snow to create an unsafe moment (either blowing off onto another vehicle or shifting to block the driver's view.

-- Again, be aware of road conditions. Is it icy? Can you even tell? Has a plow been through lately? Going slower may make you get to your destination later, but rather later than not at all.

-- Business owners, homeowners and/or town officials should always make sure to clear sidewalks so folks have a safe place to walk. (We heard good things about our downtown merchants on Monday. Great job!)

-- If sidewalks are blocked, pedestrians should try any other method than choosing to walk on the sides of the roads.

-- Drivers should make sure their tires and windshield wipers are season-appropriate.

It seems like a lot of these suggestions are common-sense, and even if each and every one was followed to a "T," accidents still can, and will, happen. Still, we say practicing safety is the best way for pedestrians and drivers to share the roads.

Please be careful out there.


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