“Another pedestrian struck!” It seems lately that I am seeing that far too many times on our incident summary sheets.
Undoubtedly, the noticeable increase in the amount of traffic in our city mixed with elderly pedestrians trying to negotiating their way through it could be some of the problem, however, it seems that for the most part, we have just forgotten or choose to ignore the simple rules that keep us safe.
In fact, driving in downtown Vernon can appear at times like a game of people playing Russian roulette. Just the other day, I had a woman walk out in front of my truck at an uncontrolled intersection as if she was trying to get me to hit her. Her head was down looking at the road. She never once looked up as she stepped out in front of my truck.
The only way I was able to stop was that I happened to see her coming and realized she was crossing the street whatever the consequences might be and hit the brakes in time. “Just one of those things!” you could say. “Just a person with a lot on their mind!” you might think. “Everything turned out okay and I shouldn’t worry!” I guess, except for one important fact, that this was the third near miss with an unobservant pedestrian I had had in the same week. Understandably, I am beginning to question my driving and I believe I am becoming somewhat of a nervous wreck as a result of my trip to and from work!
When pedestrians and vehicles collide, it is unfortunately the pedestrian that loses with often tragic results. It is critical that a pedestrian be alert and on the defensive when entering traffic because right or wrong they are definitely the ones that are going to suffer the most. It is therefore crucial that as a pedestrian you become defensive rather than offensive when comes to your safety. Take the time to cross at marked cross walks or traffic lights and not in the middle of the block or between parked cars.
Always make sure that drivers see you and traffic comes to a complete stop before you cross. Wear reflective or bright clothing when walking in poor light or in darkness and be alert for vehicles turning at intersections or vehicles leaving or entering driveways. Never cross the street when the light has turned yellow or red and remember when the “Don’t Walk” sign begins to flash, it means just that “Don’t walk!”
It can be nothing short of devastating for a motorist to live with the guilt of injuring or killing someone with their vehicle. I know it is truly something I never want to experience in my lifetime! I cannot emphasize it enough that drivers need to be diligent at staying alert and avoiding any distraction when driving. Be patient! Watch for older pedestrians that might need more time to cross the street and slow down through school zones and residential areas.
Above all, use caution when driving in our busy downtown core and be extra attentive in watching for that naive pedestrian who believes they are mightier than your shiny metal bumper.
Lastly, parents and caregivers take the time to teach your children the importance of crossing the road safely. Make sure they understand that they need to keep themselves as far away as possible from the travelled portion of the road, even when walking on the sidewalk. It is important that they walk facing traffic when there is no sidewalk and to never play or run into the street.
Reinforce the importance of making sure they are seen by the driver before they step into the street and to be especially cautious where there is no curb. Most importantly they need to be patient, alert and be absolutely sure that no vehicle will threaten their journey to the other side of the street or driveway by looking both ways and making sure that traffic has come to a complete stop.
Pedestrian safety is everyone’s concern! Going for a walk on our city streets should not and cannot be an exercise in survival. It requires both drivers and pedestrians working together and following just a few simple rules to keep our busy city the wonderfully safe place it is meant to be.
Please help us at Vernon Fire Rescue Services by making a pledge to become an expert in the rules for drivers and pedestrians and help us keep everyone safe on our roads
Lawrie Skolrood is deputy fire chief with Vernon Fire Rescue.