Crossing the street - how to cross the streetCrossing the Street Defensively; Texting and Driving Accidents

This just happened last week: A friend’s daughter was walking home from school and nearly got hit by a car. Actually, the car grazed her hip, but she was completely fine. The really awful part was that this middle school girl did everything right! (Well, almost. We’ll get to that.)  She was at a crosswalk, hit the button, waited for the oncoming traffic light to turn red, saw the “walk” signal light up, counted to five before crossing the street, and then stepped out.

A full 10 seconds after the light was red, a car sped through the red light. In a school zone! One of the girl’s friends grabbed her by the elbow and yanked her back, probably saving her life.

From what I understand, the driver of the car was on her cell phone and actually yelled at the girls before illegally changing lanes and speeding off. While it would be easy to dwell on her dangerous behavior, what I really want to talk about is how we teach our children about crossing the street.

What Did She Do Wrong?

The only thing the middle school girl did wrong was that she didn’t look up the street before stepping out.  I understand why! It’s a three-lane, one-way street and cars had stopped in the two farthest lanes. She saw cars stopped in the intersection and it never occurred to her that another car would come flying through an intersection with a stale red light where other cars were already stopped.

And yet, that happened.

So, though we all start teaching our children about crossing the street very early in life – and we think it’s a skill that we’ve mastered ourselves – I thought I’d address the topic anyway.

How to Cross The Street

  • Cross only at designated crosswalks: Look for paint on the road that indicates a designated crosswalk. Some crosswalks look like railroad tracks, with two parallel lines and rectangular blocks running perpendicular between them across the street. Other crosswalks are delineated with just two parallel lines.
  • Look for nearby pedestrian signals: If a pedestrian signal is available, push the button and wait patiently for the walk/don’t walk symbols to appear.
  • Look both ways when the walk symbol appears: This is the step that a lot of people forget. They see the walk signal and assume that oncoming drivers are also following the rules. Look to your left, then to your right, then again to your left. I even tell my kids to do this at one-way intersections because we’ve all seen confused drivers head the wrong way down a one-way street.
  • Make eye contact with drivers: Make sure that they see you. If they aren’t paying attention, they may drive right through a light or start driving before you’re across the intersection.
  • If there aren’t any pedestrian signals or a crosswalk: Eye contact is critical! As I said before, look left, right, then left again. If you see an oncoming car, don’t move until they slow down and wave you across. This human connection is often skipped but it saves lives.
  • Children should cross with an adult: Because children are short (usually), it can be hard for drivers to see them with all of the other obstacles nearby, such as trees, parked cars, signs and other pedestrians. Children should cross the street with an adult (not just when they are learning how to cross the street, but all of the time), and they should stay next to that adult, not running ahead.

There are even some cities that have made it illegal to walk and text to try and prevent texting and driving accidents.

Texting and Driving Accidents: No Distracted Walking

I have a friend (not a child) who was texting while walking, fell off a curb and broke her ankle. Humiliating, right? She is completely embarrassed, but she’s also very lucky. When she fell off the curb, she fell right into a traffic lane. Luckily, no cars were coming, but this is a leading cause of texting and driving accidents.

Children walk around with their eyes on screens all the time! Teach your children to keep their phones in their pockets when walking from point A to point B, better yet, teach them about texting and driving accidents. I even think listening to music on headsets is too distracting for some environments, such as downtown, where you could even get run over by a biker on the sidewalk.

I found an article on CBSNews.com that said…

  • An estimated 10% of pedestrian injuries that land people in emergency rooms are due to distracted walking, a recent study found. That’s thousands of people injured — sometimes killed.
  • Another study found people using their phone while walking veered off course 61%of the time, and overshot their target 13% more than when they were not distracted by their device.
  • For the first time, the National Safety Council is including distracted walking as a category in its annual report on unintentional deaths and injuries.

There are even some cities that have made it illegal to walk and text to try and prevent texting and driving accidents.  Fort Lee, NJ has banned texting while walking. If caught texting while jaywalking in that town, violators face an $85 fine. Other cities and states are following suit.

Make the Human Connection When Crossing the Street

But again, I come back to children and how they learn to cross the street. My personal feeling is that the most important thing they can do is to make eye contact with the drivers around them. If they make that human connection, then they have likely taken all the steps necessary (stopping, looking both ways, waiting, etc.) to protect themselves.

If you have any questions about this article, please contact me or or call (303) 388-5304.


Related articles:

Rules of the Road: Stop Sign Accidents — Consequences of ignored stop signs can be catastrophic. Take a moment to check  yourself and the rules of the road.

Should You Take Your Own Case? — We’re seeing a trend where people believe they can handle their own case and, in the process, do irreparable damage when they realize they are in over their heads.