11 deaths. 11 deaths too many. 11 pedestrians have been killed on suburban Atlanta Gwinnett County’s roads so far this year. That number could have gone up since I starting writing this post. Also, at the moment, we have a few days left in 2014. Nevertheless, that 2014 number is up from previous years.
It’s no secret that pedestrian safety is an oxymoron in the Atlanta metropolitan area. A number of aggressive, distracted drivers coupled with many non-compliant pedestrians leads to these disturbing numbers in most cases.
The Gwinnett County Police Department clearly spells out pedestrian rules and tips. The department says that pedestrians need to stay within crosswalks, obey traffic signals and wear bright and/or reflective clothing.
As a runner, cyclist, vehicle operator and passenger, I generally agree with the county police’s tips and rule reiterations. Pedestrians should always use and stay within crosswalks, but throughout much of Gwinnett County’s roads, crosswalks can be a rarity on certain roads. With a lack of crosswalks, pedestrians are left with little choice but to brave it and cross the road. Some of these roads can range from two to six lanes. Let’s not even talk about crossing where there are blind spots due to hills and road curves. That’s all beyond a risk to cross in those places.
The county police tips suggest that pedestrians ought to make eye contact with drivers. Making eye contact with drivers is a greater challenge for pedestrians these days. Most of the time, drivers are intensely concentrating on competing in traffic. How many of us can admit that we will do what it takes to make that green light or left turn? There’s nothing wrong with admitting that by the way. Let’s face it: most of us are guilty as charged on those accounts because of the way our roads are laid out or from the traffic signals.
Attempting to efficiently go from Point A to Point B is a daily driver’s frustration which in turn, makes it dangerous for the pedestrian. There are scores of instances when I was running or walking across an intersection when it was impossible to get the driver’s attention. The driver was so focused on shooting out into traffic or was simply engaged in a phone conversation. I hate to suggest this, but it might be a good idea to run or walk in back of the vehicle. Even after many years on foot, I have yet to catch anyone texting and driving from my pedestrian vantage point. Of course that could change any day that I’m out there.
The county police urge citizens to review Georgia Law O.C.G.A. 40-6-90 through 40-6-99. With that stated, the county reiterates that when it comes to a vehicle versus pedestrian tussle, the pedestrian always loses regardless of who has the right way. My rule of thumb is to wear bright, reflective clothing when possible, but still assume that all drivers cannot see you. Oh yes, it’s also a good idea not to drink and run (or walk). I’m a bit doubtful that county police would not give a pedestrian the benefit of the doubt if he or she has been drinking.
I also recommend carrying your identification if possible. Better yet, make a copy of your I.D. as well as a mobile phone in case of an emergency. If you have a Smartphone, there are some great apps out there where you can send family or friends info about your route. One of my favorite apps is called “Road CC.” I got this app during the recent Tour de France. You can plug your information into the app and make it a part of your Smartphone’s lock-screen.
Most of us who possess common sense know that driver/pedestrian courtesy is a two-way street. Drivers need to be aware of pedestrians and pedestrians need to be aware of vehicles.