With gas prices hovering around $4.00 per gallon, many people are opting for cheaper transportation methods, including walking. Getting around downtown Louisville on foot is relatively easy: there are automatic pedestrian signals, marked cross walks at every corner, and sidewalks. However, once you get outside of the downtown area, the number of sidewalks decrease, the distance between intersections increases, and marked cross walks all but disappear. For example, pedestrians along Dixie Highway are known for crossing the street in such a way that it resembles a game of Frogger.
The Centers of Disease Control reports that in 2010 traffic accidents were the cause of over 4,000 pedestrian fatalities and approximately 70,000 pedestrian injuries in the United States. 61 of those fatalities occurred in Kentucky, with the majority occurring right here in Louisville. Most of these accidents occur in urban areas, at places where there is not an intersection, and at night. Alcohol is a factor in about 47% of the reported accidents and, of the 4,000+ pedestrian fatalities, 33% of the pedestrians were legally drunk.
What can drivers and pedestrians do to help prevent accidents? First and foremost, pedestrians need to make themselves as visible as possible, especially if they are walking after dark. If you are crossing at an intersection, try to make eye contact with the drivers that will be turning towards you to be sure they see you. Second, it is important for the drivers and the pedestrians to know the laws of the road as the pertain to each role.
For pedestrians, according to KRS 189.570, pedestrians must obey all traffic control devices, meaning, if the cross walk sign says do not walk, don’t walk. If a pedestrian is crossing the road and is not in a cross walk or at an intersection, the pedestrian must yield right-of-way to the vehicle. Pedestrians must not cross an intersection diagonally unless it is noted otherwise. If a sidewalk is available, the pedestrian must legally walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians should walk on the shoulder as far from traffic as possible and walk on the left side of the road (against traffic). Pedestrians must obey all rail road crossing gates and lights and yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles.
For drivers, according to the same KRS 189.570, drivers must yield right-of-way to pedestrians in cross walks, both marked and unmarked (an unmarked cross walk is at every intersection following the lines of where the sidewalk would be if it wasn’t interrupted) and the pedestrian is supposed to cross following the traffic lights like the cars). Legally, the driver is to wait for the pedestrian to finish crossing the road before going through the cross walk. Drivers must also yield right of way to pedestrians on a sidewalk and to all blind pedestrians that are using the appropriate white cane or an assistance dog.
While not all pedestrians follow the laws and cross the street legally, many do. So, the next time you pull up to an intersection, look for pedestrians that will be using the cross walk and be mindful. Remember that pedestrians have the same right to be there as you do. Likewise, pedestrians must be mindful that the cross walk is not a safety shield and should always be aware of what is happening around them. Pedestrians should also remember the important lesson from childhood: always look twice before crossing the street.