Some people just won’t learn.
Last night, I turned left from Walnut Street onto Audelia in Richardson, Texas, and I was confronted with tail lights. Lined up three cars deep in all three lanes. Something had stopped traffic all across Audelia, but in the dark I couldn’t see what it was. But cars were stopped behind me by this time, so it looked as if I’d have time to find out. In fact, the drivers of the cars around me were already climbing out to do exactly that.
I could eventually see that someone ahead was hurt, but not in a car. There was a pedestrian lying in the street.
I got out of my car and was about to suggest that these cars needed to be moved. Medical help, when it arrived, wouldn’t be able to get through with all the lanes blocked. But as I took a few steps from my car, it seems that the same idea had occurred to everyone else: all the other drivers were already heading back to their cars. Slowly, carefully, the cars ahead of me moved out of the way, and the rest of us followed after, leaving behind just two or three cars to wait for an ambulance.
As I passed the victim, I got a look at him and what had happened: a pedestrian dressed all in black was crossing the street — all six lanes of it, apparently — beneath our neighbourhood’s practically non-existant street lights and was hit by a car.
Minutes later, I had dispatched my errand — something involving the local grocery store and a roast chicken — and was headed back home. By this time, the injured pedestrian again had attracted a crowd of people, but this time it included an ambulance, a fire truck, and six police cars. All with lights flashing.
But as I travelled past this light show and travelled the block southward on Audelia, I had to stop twice to avoid hitting pedestrians dressed all in black, crossing a busy six-lane road under dim lights.
Whatever else this crash had done to the guy who was hit by a car, it didn’t teach his neighbours much.
CROSSING THE STREET SAFELY
Cross at an intersection if you can. Drivers are conditioned to be on the lookout for pedestrians at corners and intersections, so this is the safest place to cross. Yes, this can mean steps or even yards out of your way, but remember what we say in our defensive driving classes: it’s better to get there a little later than not to get there at all.
When you get to the edge of the street, come to a full stop and wait three seconds or so as you look around. Use your body language to tell the drivers that you’re not going to be striding out in front of them as if they didn’t matter.
And, while we’re at it, don’t stride out in front of cars as if they didn’t matter. In my part of Dallas, there are lots of people who arrogantly walk into traffic as if they’re daring the drivers to hit them. Sure, they look tough, but that won’t matter much when the oncoming piece of metal can’t stop in time. No matter how tough you are, a car can still easily bruise your body, break your bones, and spill your blood.
Walk slowly; don’t run. Though getting to the other side more quickly may seem like a good idea, it actually makes it harder for drivers to see and avoid hitting you.
If you must cross the street at night, wear something light-coloured that will better reflect a car’s headlights. Don’t worry about your personal style: wearing black head-to-toe may be stylish, but this won’t be much of a priority once you’re lying broken in a hospital bed. But there’s no reason to wear all white either: a light-coloured jacket over your black clothes would attract enough driver attention to make you safer, and you can always remove it once you’re safely across the street.
Finally, Texas laws give pedestrians the right-of-way over drivers, but don’t expect all drivers to know to yield. In fact, don’t even expect that everyone who knows the law will respect it.