Health & Safety

October 12, 2012

Crossing the line proves more hazardous after dark

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by Linda Welz
452 AMW public affairs
crosswalk
According to California state law, motorists are required to give right-of-way to civilians who have entered the crosswalk. However, pedestrians should also take caution when entering crosswalks to ensure they do not cause oncoming vehicles to stop suddenly, potentially causing an accident. (U.S. Air Force photo / Linda Welz)

You may have noticed them while driving down Graeber St. They appear and disappear at strategic crosswalk locations around the base. They are neon-colored, pedestrian crosswalk signs to help drivers and pedestrians be more aware and comply with California state law.

“It’s a shared responsibility,” said Jim Moats, wing ground safety manager. “The state law requires vehicles to stop for a pedestrian, but a pedestrian must also not step out in front of a vehicle.”

Moats, also the commander’s traffic safety coordination group’s chair, said there have been many close calls where people have started to cross and cars haven’t stopped.

“People in ABUs make it more challenging because they are camouflaged,” Moats said. “After dark, they are not required to wear reflective belts off the flightline.”

An increase in close calls was seen after the 752nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron moved from the old fire station to Bldg 429. In their new location, flightline parking is limited so they have to park across Graeber Street, Moats said.

Maintenance squadron personnel work two shifts. There are about 100 maintainers who come to and leave work at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., said Maj. Al Knapp, 752nd Maintenance Operations Officer.

“There’s no lighting on the poles and two to three weeks ago we had two, very close calls in the (dark) morning with drivers not seeing them (the maintainers crossing),” Knapp said.

Knapp said he has briefed squadron personnel to watch before crossing and to try to make eye contact with the drivers. They’ve been told that when it’s dark and making eye contact is impossible, to just wait. The police have been out in force trying to stop speeding but people aren’t paying attention, Knapp said.

“We have also encouraged the use of reflective belts which is in their personal equipment bag,” he said. “But, most maintainers leave their bags at work so they don’t lose them.”

Five pedestrian crosswalk signs were recently purchased to help combat this issue that has been a hot topic for a couple of years, Moats said.

“Hopefully they are working. Anything that draws the driver’s attention that there’s a crosswalk there is better than nothing,” Knapp said.

The long-term plan is to improve crosswalks with better signage and better warning markings on the street, Moats said. Mass emails have gone out to spread awareness of this issue.

“We have so many other agencies on base that don’t see our mass emails, Moats said. “So we are using The Beacon to try to reach out to all agencies on base to make them aware and ask them to be more careful.”

In addition, drivers need to be aware of is how close they stop to a crosswalk. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices gives examples showing vehicles should yield to pedestrians in crosswalks a minimum of 20 feet from the crosswalk, not right next to the crosswalk.

California Vehicle Code 21950 and 21954 states the following:

21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

21954. (a) Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.

(b) The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.

“Although there is nothing in the California Vehicle Code that states a pedestrian must be completely out of the crosswalk before the driver proceeds, common sense should be the rule of thumb,” said Officer Steven Robinson, Advance Officer Safety Trainer, California Highway Patrol. “The driver should only proceed when the pedestrian is safely and completely out of the driver’s path.”




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