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Pedestrian Safety - San Diego 3rd on the most Killed Pedestrian List

by The Social Diary Safety Educator Columnist Monica Zech
Column #11, April 23rd, 2006

When Walking - How Safe Are You?

You may be surprised to hear that according to a 2004 Mean Streets report that monitors how safe we are walking throughout the United States, they have rated San Diego among the top three most dangerous cities when it comes to pedestrian fatalities. New York City comes in number one, followed by Miami as number two.

In New York City most people walk and use mass transit, for Miami and San Diego weather has more people walking and a large number of tourists that visit. But it's how we walk, or jog, that's killing us. From what I see through reports, and have experienced personally - we forget the basics of "walking safety" and that is the biggest contributor to our injuries and fatalities. What are the basics we forget?

" Look in all directions before crossing and keep looking as you cross
" Cross at corners where people expect to see someone crossing, hopefully at a corner with a signal or STOP sign
" Do not jay-walk or cross mid-block
" Do not walk out from between parked cars
" Cross with signals if possible and do not walk against a flashing "red", or solid
"red" hand
" Do not cross against a "red light!"
" When walking at night - be aware of what you're wearing: wear light colored clothing, or wear reflective tape on your shoes, pants, jackets etc - even on the collar of that dog you may be walking
" If in a wheel chair have the tall stick with the orange bright flag that brings attention to you
" And pedestrian law is not going to save you when you step out into traffic without making sure the driver sees you by making eye contact and comes to a complete stop. Drivers often impair themselves in numerous ways - it's not just alcohol, it can be talking on a cell phone, turning their head to talk to a passenger or changing the radio station or putting in a CD - even reading their mail or a newspaper..

That brings up my personal issue I mentioned earlier in that my father was killed as a pedestrian when struck by a DUI driver. One vehicle had already stopped for my father, the second approaching vehicle did not. Don't assume that if one car stops next car will as well. Make eye contact with motorists, and don't step in front of them until they come to a FULL STOP - Use caution when crossing.

What many of us don't know, we can lose more than our life when crossing "illegally." By jay-walking, walking or jogging against a red light and we're struck by a vehicle…if the driver is not cited and we as the pedestrian is found at fault, then that drivers' insurance company will not have to pay for your injuries or funeral costs, and your own insurance company may not pay as well. This will then become an "out of pocket" expense. Another factor, latest figures show that 40 percent of the driving public does not have insurance like they legally should. Something to keep in mind while driving and why we need to be 100 percent alert behind the wheel - and as a pedestrian.

Also, another important item to mention, as you cross with your children...are you educating them on the "safety factor." If you're pushing that stroller, or taking your child by the hand and crossing with them against red lights and/or jaywalking - you're teaching them to ignore "safety" laws made for our safety. You may be teaching them a practice that could lead to their death or injury in the future. You are the biggest role model for your child in all that you say and do, especially when it comes to "safety."

Back to traffic signals, some improvements are being made to enhance our safety factor. In some cities you'll see that the walk signal may pop on prior to the light turning green for vehicle traffic, or, there's a countdown signal, letting you know how much time you have to cross. But walk with a fresh green signal, or fresh "walk" signal. But, if you come to the corner and the walk signal is a flashing or solid red hand, wait for the next light cycle. Don't take the risk of crossing "illegally" - you're risking your life.

The issue for seniors has been in the news lately with the recent story of an elderly woman being cited for taking too long to cross. There may have been some other circumstances involved of why the officer chose to cite her. But I've also heard the complaint of signals changing too quickly for some crossing areas. Please contact your city traffic engineer if you have a concern for a signal in your area. If you do walk slowly due to age or health reasons please schedule your walks later in the morning after the morning rush has started to clear out. Motorists can become very impatient and/or inconsiderate when they're running late and they feel you are making them wait. Also, cross where it's safest, even if it means having to go an extra block or two. Keep your risk factor low.

Note: Let me tell you of an incident in which someone with a white cane was crossing a street in the North County when an impatient motorist brushed past him literally putting this pedestrian into a spin and luckily without injury. An officer witnessed this driver's behavior. It resulted in a $1,500 fine for the driver.

Motorists - please consider leaving an extra 15 to 20 minutes earlier for your destination. This will greatly reduce the stress factor for your commute especially when it comes to pedestrians. Please be considerate of other commuters whether they're driving or walking. It may seem like you're the only one who is considerate of others - but you'll feel good and so will our pedestrians. Treating others how you'd like to be treated is something to keep in mind.

Another problem to mention…when pedestrians deliberately walk behind vehicles trying to back out of a parking space. Please - it takes just a few seconds to wait for this vehicle to back up and leave rather than risk not being seen and hit. It's a top complaint I hear and have also experienced. When walking through a parking lot watch for back up lights or the exhaust coming from the tail pipe, this tells you the engine is running and this vehicle may be backing up. And when backing up check carefully especially for children, whether you're in a parking lot or backing out of your driveway. This has been a growing tragic problem of parents backing over their own children.

Please be safe in everything you do and your children will develop the same healthy habit. For additional safety information on a variety of issues please visit my safety website at www.monicazech.com. For a safety lecture please email your request to mzech@ci.el-cajon.ca.us.

For more safety information please visit our web site at El Cajon Fire.com

* Monica Zech is the Public Information Officer and Safety Educator for the City of El Cajon and for El Cajon Police and Fire Departments. For safety tips please visit El Cajon Fire.com In community work, Zech is the President on the board for the Trauma Research Education Foundation-TREF and a board member with Communities Against Substance Abuse-CASA. In March, Monica received the County's 2005 Individual Health Champion Award for her safety lectures in the community and throughout the county. Email mzech@ci.el-cajon.ca.us and visit Zech's Web Site ,or Monica Zech at (619) 441-1737.

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