Monday, January 9, 2017

The Word Is YIELD

This series is inspired by the "Words From
Unity" public service announcements
that ran on television (particularly in
Kansas City) in the 1970's and 80's.
Those who designed certain traffic laws never had to drive. Perhaps they never had to encounter the situation of making a turn while people were using a crosswalk.

The law says when you're making a turn at a corner, and somebody is using a crosswalk, you yield to the pedestrian. That's the polite thing to do. But pity the person who's having to get to the other side with an impatient motorist who can't understand why one person should hold up his turn on a green light, especially when said person is in no expediency to complete the crossing. Harried chickens cross the road faster. Unfortunately, many humans do not.

Maybe it's time we bring the traffic laws into closer congruence with the laws of physics. Right-of-way will be determined not by who's walking, but by gross weight. That means when you're at a crosswalk facing a Hummer making a turn, stay out of the way. In Great Britain, reminders are painted on the pavement: "Look left" or "Look right." The responsibility -- at least part of it -- is placed back on the pedestrian. Get mowed down by a Mini Cooper and it's your own bloody fault. It's impolite, but it's realistic in the road rage age.

Cruising down River Road in Tucson after dark can be an illuminating experience, if you count your white knuckles. I usually spot at least one person walking or cycling in the dead of night wearing pitch black clothing -- no safety light, no reflective tape. The recommended speed limit is 40. I'd say you need to dial it down even lower. Errant cyclists and strollers are not going to change their habits, no matter how many times we report an auto-pedestrian death on the news.

Many of these entirely preventable deaths come from good 'ol scofflaw jaywalking, not just reckless drivers. Tucson Police just got an infusion of cash to help crack down on these issues, although I have yet to personally witness TPD ticket somebody for jaywalking.

"Did you know you were darting out into the middle of the street?"

"No, sir, I didn't."

"You know what a Hummer is?"

"Yes, sir."

"You ever been hit by one of those?"

"No sir, I thought they stopped making 'em."

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