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Become a safer pedestrian
Art deWerk is the police chief of Ceres. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Pedestrian safety is generally not a hot topic, but with the recent fatal collision several weeks ago at Service and Mitchell in Ceres between a motorist and a person travelling on foot, we are all reminded of the hazards of walking in these busy urban environments that we live in. It seems like more people are walking these days; some people walk for relaxation and the health benefits (although I have to wonder how healthy it is to walk along side busy roadways with the concentration of exhaust fumes), others because they cannot afford cars and yet others do so to help improve air quality.

Crossing streets and intersections, and walking or waiting near streets can pose hazards, especially if the person on foot is not paying attention. Motorists, bicyclists, skateboarders and joggers can collide with persons walking, especially if they are not doing so defensively. People walking may even encounter persons riding horses in almost any city setting. During a recent trip to Sacramento, I saw two mounted California Highway Patrol officers in the downtown area riding huge draft horses. It was quite a sight and while it had me wondering about the potential for a mishap, it seemed like an excellent tool for preventing crime and public relations.

The loss of lives and injuries to pedestrians is a serious problem that has led to the creation of "CalPed," a state program aimed at educating the public and preventing avoidable collisions involving pedestrians. CalPed issues pedestrian safety guidelines, but most common sense things that everyone should know and practice anyway.

Distracted walking is perhaps the newest dynamic that has made for increased collisions between pedestrians and motorists, and, there is a new trend where persons walking while texting are bumping into poles, walls, fire hydrants, glass doors and even other people while absorbed in their smart phones. Even though I am opposed to the feverish pace of new laws being created, I am anticipating that some legislator will declare that there is an "epidemic" of texting pedestrians walking into fixed objects, and that a new law must be passed to protect them from themselves! I would rather see people lookout for themselves rather than having the government meddling in this aspect of our lives.

Pedestrians have the right-of-way over motorists in many situations, but people driving cars frequently do not see a pedestrian just before they collide with them. And rare are the occasions when the motorist does not fare better than the person walking. For these reasons, you should keep these tips in mind for keeping yourself safe while walking through the busy streets of our communities. Wear high visibility clothing, whether day or night. Be very alert and assume that you are just one motorist's error away from being killed or hospitalized. When crossing in a crosswalk, use a defensive approach, and be particularly alert to persons making right turns from the inside lanes. Do not spend more time crossing than necessary and continuously look left and right for potential hazards. When encountering an approaching motorist, use eye contact to make sure you are seen. Always use crosswalks at controlled intersections when they are available.

In terms of children, they are among the most vulnerable to being hit by motorists. The reasons, of course, are due to their small size and inexperience in dealing with the complexities of motoring traffic situations. According to one report, children as pedestrians account for nearly one third of all motor vehicle-related deaths in California. It is clear that more needs to be done to keep children safe from errant motorists while children themselves must use utmost care when travelling on foot.

In short, in comparison to motor vehicle safety, pedestrian safety does not receive as much attention as is warranted. The pedestrian death and injury statistics make clear the need for increased public awareness and improved pedestrian safety practices, especially for children. Walking is good, but it must be done in a safe manner while paying attention to surroundings at all times.