Editorial: Clearer laws, driver awareness needed for crosswalk safety

 
Posted12/21/2017 3:45 PM
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  • Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comMarni Pyke and her 7-year-old wait for traffic to stop at a crosswalk at 41st Street and Highland Avenue, as they walk to school in Downers Grove.

    Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comMarni Pyke and her 7-year-old wait for traffic to stop at a crosswalk at 41st Street and Highland Avenue, as they walk to school in Downers Grove.

Think hard: Where in your neighborhood is there a zebra-striped crosswalk that allows pedestrians to cross the street apart from intersections?

Can't picture any? That's probably because unless it's in front of your child's school or you encounter one with signs and flashing lights, you've never given crosswalks a moment's notice.

It's pretty clear from a staffwide study conducted in November and December by the Daily Herald that many drivers are either oblivious to crosswalks or pay them no heed.

In 2010, the state passed a law that states that when there are no working traffic signals, pedestrians may cross the street in a designated crosswalk and drivers must yield to them "when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger."

It also says pedestrians can't just dart into traffic, even in a crosswalk, creating hazardous situations.

We sent people to 35 crosswalks to see what would happen when they tried to cross.

• In 90 percent of the cases, traffic continued to pass by someone waiting at the curb to cross.

• Twenty percent of the time, drivers kept going when someone was standing or walking in the crosswalk itself.

• Twelve percent of the time, our staffers were stuck in the middle of crosswalks while traffic continued.

• Almost 15 cars, on average, passed through crosswalks before letting someone cross, leaving the person unable to cross for an average of 76 seconds.

None of us who monitored these crosswalks use wheelchairs. Only two of us -- including reporter Marni Pyke -- had a child in tow.

We tested these things out in the daylight, when crosswalks unadorned with reflective signs and flashing lights are most visible.

So our study was done under ideal conditions, and some of us still feared for our lives.

Consider what happens after sundown and you include children, people using wheelchairs, canes or walkers and those with sight impairments. It's a recipe for disaster.

We published Pyke's story to shine a light on a major safety problem. To be sure, it's incumbent upon drivers to be more aware of the law and watch out for pedestrians.

But it's also important for lawmakers to be more insightful when passing legislation that seems so doomed for failure owing to its simplicity and naiveté.

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