Monday, May 16, 2011

Crossing Over...Walking in Ignorance

   There is a prevailing problem plaguing some segments of our society and if it isn’t addressed soon, someone is going to get hurt...or worse. Think of this as a public service announcement giving you vital information on a condition, or more accurately, a behavior that you may or may not be aware of. 
   Being the kind of person I am, I observe nearly everything...I just can’t help it, and once I see a pattern, I look for it. As I drive through the city daily either for personal errands or as a function of my duties while working, I get the opportunity to observe many things...but what I end up observing most, is people. Lately, my observations have been most disturbing because what I’m seeing is extremely dangerous and defies the natural law of self preservation. Speaking of law...I think it’s time I get to the heart of the issue.
   There are laws in place for nearly every facet of our lives. There are laws for driving...and laws for walking. Being a pedestrian can be challenging at times, especially in the dead of winter, but I see no reason to make it a game of Russian Roulette. Let me Massachusetts we have a law, that is very clearly posted, increasingly so, at many intersections and it reads “State Law: Stop For Pedestrians In Crosswalk.” I suspect that all states have the same or some variant of this to help protect people when crossing the street. I’m all for this...but people are taking this to the extreme. 

   In my observations, I’ve seen people thrust themselves into the crosswalk without so much as a glance to either side of them, with the assurance and confidence that the crosswalk is actually an invisible physical barrier that will easily repel any vehicle foolish enough to challenge it. Really...I kid you not. It’s almost as if they were not really crossing the street, but instead, walking into a tunnel made of adamantium, giving them complete protection from all vehicles. The law makes provisions for crossing the street...but I don’t see anywhere in it where it expressly excludes the use of common sense. Here, take a look at it:
(Chapters 1 through 182)
Marked crosswalks; yielding right of way to pedestrians; penalty
Section 11. When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be so to yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk marked in accordance with standards established by the department of highways if the pedestrian is on that half of the traveled part of the way on which the vehicle is traveling or if the pedestrian approaches from the opposite half of the traveled part of the way to within 10 feet of that half of the traveled part of the way on which said vehicle is traveling.
No driver of a vehicle shall pass any other vehicle which has stopped at a marked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross, nor shall any such operator enter a marked crosswalk while a pedestrian is crossing or until there is a sufficient space beyond the crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle he is operating, notwithstanding that a traffic control signal may indicate that vehicles may proceed.
Whoever violates any provision of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $200.

Whenever a pedestrian is injured by a motor vehicle in a marked crosswalk, the department of state police or the municipal police department with jurisdiction of the street, in consultation with department of state police if deemed appropriate, shall conduct an investigation into the cause of the injury and any violation of this section or other law or ordinance and shall issue the appropriate civil or criminal citation or file an application for the appropriate criminal complaint, if any. This section shall not limit the ability of a district attorney or the attorney general to seek an indictment in connection with the operation of a motor vehicle which causes injury or death and which violates this section.
   I can’t speak for anyone else, but I didn’t see a phrase in there that discontinued the wise words of mother to “look both ways before you cross the street.” With all due respect to the law, the paint on the street that people feel so safe walking on will not...I repeat, will not, in any way shield, stop or protect anyone from two and a half tons of metal traveling at no less than thirty miles per hour. With Boston drivers, you can expect significantly faster speeds, despite the posted speed limit. 

   My fear deepens with this increasing behavior because it is the young people that are the most egregious violators of this habit. The law, coupled with the illusion of indestructibility that accompanies youth, lays the groundwork for a very bad situation. Not to exclude the other side of the equation...that most people in the city of Boston are horrible drivers at best, scribe of this post excluded, and need further education on rules of the road as well as several million hours of driving to be competent behind the wheel (but I won’t get into that now).
   So...take this as a public service announcement informing you that in a contest of paint versus car, the car will win and move on to the next round...bone versus car, and the car will win again...easily. The fine charged to the driver won’t be nearly enough to cover the damage done to flesh and muscle and taking the attitude that if you get hit, you’ll simply sue, is little consolation to your loved ones after you’re gone.
   Mother wasn’t always right (or maybe she was), but she certainly knew what she was talking about when she said to look both way before you cross the street. I’ll add to that advice by saying stay alert...because walking in ignorance will have you crossing over to more than just the other side of the street.

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