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Are We Becoming Careless When It Comes to Pedestrian Safety?

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In the past week, three accidents involving pedestrians have come to light via the U.S. newfeeds: A young girl, 10 years old, was hit by a car when she left the sidewalk and tried crossing a busy thoroughfare in Bergen County, NJ; she will live.  A 15-year old in a group of teens was killed trying to cross a busy four-lane expressway, where I-84 meets Route 17 in Wallkill, New York. And a 2-year old toddler in Orlando, Florida, was run over and killed by his 12-year old sister who was starting her parents’ sport utility vehicle in their driveway.  While each of these is a tragic accident, one can recover from the first. But for the other two victims, there is no recovery.  And it points once again to the leading cause of death in kids is unintentional–often preventable–injury.  None of those children should have been where they were, period.

As parents, role models, family members and caregivers, ought we to sound off longer and louder about kids’ safe travel on foot and about everyone who gets behind the wheel watching out not only for what’s in the traffic lanes ahead, but for pedestrians on the sidewalks, and people, animals and obstacles in our peripheral vision? I am reminded of slogans and parental commands uttered when I was growing up:  Don’t jay-walk, go to the corner, look both ways, cross at the light, stay in the crosswalk, don’t step off the curb until you know the way is completely clear! These instructions would not have helped the toddler, but had the parents of the toddler not allowed their young daughter to start a car for them… who is to say what may not have happened? Yes, it’s tragic and our hearts go out to those parents. We don’t wish these things on anyone.

It’s up to those of us who drive to pay attention to what’s going on in front of us–and to check back-up cameras and rearview and side mirrors religiously when we back-up our vehicles. We cannot depend on a vehicle’s “system” to do it for us despite the fact that we depend on technology for almost everything else!  We cannot be lackadaisical about safety. It simply doesn’t work in this fast-paced world we live in, accidents happen. But we can avoid many accidents by simply paying attention and being diligent in our driving habits.

Pedestrians are people–not possums. We have to be careful of people–who are not moving at the speed of light, children and the elderly, especially.  We must not exceed roadway speed limits so we can stop for pedestrians if necessary.  In a perfect world, distracted driving and driving under the influence would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law every time the infractions occur and are cited to deter others from bad behavior that affects the wellbeing–and ultimately the lives– of our children. But as you can see from the numbers of people who use cell phones while driving, bad actors don’t always get caught!

So today, we ask that you try to remember to be cautious and careful of pedestrians who may enter your roadway unexpectedly, especially if you are driving in neighborhoods where there are children, by schools, busstops, churches, and gathering places, or on narrow streets where there are shops and people like to walk.  It’s springtime and children are out in greater numbers walking and playing out of doors. Be mindful of them and aware of your own ability to react–don’t cloud that ability by eating, smoking, drinking or gabbing on the phone while you are driving!  The life of some child in the cross-walk, on your street or highway, or even in your driveway may depend upon your ability to react to the fact they are there–and you need to stop quickly. Please observe speed limits and drive safely, for kids’ sake!

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