March 24, 2009

COMMUNITY ADVISORY - Jaywalking is Dangerous and Against the Law

Jaywalking is defined as walking across a street outside of marked cross-walks and not at a corner, and/or against a signal light. If there is vehicle traffic or clear markings of a place to cross, this is a traffic misdemeanor subject to fine, and may be (but not conclusively) contributory negligence in the event of injury to the jaywalker by a vehicle. Jaywalking is against the law and is punishable by a fine of $40 for pedestrians who don't obey the law in the State of Maryland.

According to the National Safety Council, approximately 5,900 pedestrians are killed by automobiles every year; 84,000 suffer nonfatal injuries. Almost one-third of these victims are children under the age of 15 yet they represent only about 15% of the United States population. By following the few safety tips listed below, you can protect yourself and your children from being a part of these statistics.

- It is critical to teach children to look left-right-left before crossing streets.
- Cross only at designated crossings. Entering traffic mid-block or from between parked cars is very dangerous.
- Teach children to never dart out into traffic.

The following represents pedestrian accident statistics for the United States according to the National Highway Traffic Association (NHTA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

- Pedestrian fatalities account for 11 percent of motor vehicle fatalities.
- Pedestrians comprise the second largest category of motor vehicle accident deaths following occupant deaths.
- On average, a pedestrian is injured in a traffic accident every 8 minutes.
- On average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic accident every 111 minutes.

A pedestrian has an 85 percent chance of death when involved in a motor/vehicle collision at 40 mph, a 45 percent chance of death at 30 mph, and a 5 percent chance of death at 20 mph.

Young children and the elderly are the most vulnerable for pedestrian accident related injuries. Based on population, children under the age of 16 years are most likely to be struck by motor vehicles. Elderly pedestrians, although struck less frequently than children, are more likely to die after being struck by a vehicle. This group accounts for 16 percent of all pedestrian fatalities and 6 percent of all pedestrian injuries. Young children and the elderly have always held the highest risks of pedestrian death and injury.

When a pedestrian is involved in a motor vehicle accident they are at risk for countless serious injuries. Pedestriansí head, legs, and arms are the most vulnerable in an accident. Often, pedestrians endure extreme bodily injuries such as:

- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Paraplegia
- Quadriplegia
- Coma
- Fractured bones

Pedestrians who are jaywalking and are hit by a vehicle, regardless of their injuries, are, in some instances, at partial or complete fault. It is so important to use crosswalks and always follow the direction of the crosswalk lights. Special attention should also be paid to vehicles, as they may not always follow the rules of the road, but as a pedestrian, the highest burden is on you to protect yourself and to teach your children to protect themselves. Police can educate, but ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety - itís called personal responsibility.

There are numerous common factors that contribute to pedestrian accidents. Negligence is one of the most common factors. Motorists have a responsibility to adhere to the laws of the road and drive in a safe and observant manner at all times. Pedestrians are killed every day due to a driverís negligence.

Some common negligent practices by motorists include:

- Inattentive or pre-occupied drivers are potentially very dangerous for pedestrians.
- A driverís failure to observe posted speed limits can add to the severity in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident.
- A driverís failure to yield the right of way to pedestrians at marked cross walks can increase the chance of being involved in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident.
- A driverís disregard for traffic control devices can also increase the chance of being involved in a motor/vehicle accident.

Some people get angry with the police when they are issued a citation for jaywalking. They wonder if the ďpolice have better things to do with their time.Ē In fact, the police believe that jaywalking and protecting the citizens from possible fatal situations is just as important as a drug bust or a drunk driving arrest. In a time of cell phones and text messaging, driversí attention is not always on the task of driving safely. People are also busy and in a hurry to get to their destination. Pedestrian safety is of high concern for the police department.

One highly publicized legal case regarding jaywalking included the actress, Rebecca Gayheart. On the afternoon of June 13, 2001, Gayheart was driving northbound on Bronson Avenue in Hollywood, California. Nine-year-old Jorge Cruz, Jr., on his way home from nearby Grant Elementary School, was crossing the street in the middle of the block, jaywalking far from the nearest crosswalk. A number of cars stopped for him, but when Gayheart drove up behind them, apparently not understanding why the cars were stopped in the middle of the block, she pulled into the two-way left turn lane in the middle of the street to go around the stopped traffic. Furthermore, police estimated her speed at approximately 40 miles per hour, while the speed limit in the area was 25 miles per hour. She apparently never saw Cruz crossing, and her car struck the boy, who died the next morning of the injuries he sustained in the accident. Obviously, Gayheartís speed played a factor, but if the little boy had been educated and not jaywalking, he may not have been in the middle of that block.

Jaywalking is dangerous, it interrupts traffic flow and potentially results in injury or death to the jaywalker. Donít become a statistic. Don't let your children become a statistic. Be safe. Be responsible.

Posted by Plevy at March 24, 2009 12:06 PM
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