Motorists shouldn’t have to take responsibility for absentminded pedestrians

In Opinion
(Photo Illustration by Katie Albertson)

Don’t text and drive. Don’t drink and drive. Hands at 10 and two. The list of mantras drilled into motorists’ heads goes on, but what are pedestrians taught? “Look both ways before you cross the street,” and that single task has proven to be a daunting challenge in recent years.

2016 showed an 11 percent increase in pedestrian deaths (6,000 throughout the year), the highest since it began keeping records in 1967, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Agency. The contributing factors behind this spike in deaths is being partially attributed to lower gas prices and an increase in vehicles on the road, but the real culprit isn’t behind the wheel.

George W. Bush left office with gas prices at an average of $1.71 a gallon in 2008, according to a Snopes report published in 2015, and there was no record-breaking increase in pedestrian deaths then.

The recent spike in pedestrian deaths has little to do with the number of motorists on the road or gas prices. It has more to do with people’s unwillingness to peel their eyes away from the all-important glowing box that is cemented in their hands, their phones.

It is finally time for pedestrians to assume some responsibility for their actions and make a change. A law forbidding texting and crossing would likely not stop anyone from doing so because it would be impossible to enforce with any degree of reasonable consistency.

The only law that could come close to balancing the heralded status of pedestrian’s would be to place fault on a pedestrian and motorist who were both distracted during the incident instead of only blaming the motorist, but let’s not get too hopeful.

Drivers must wait on pedestrians hand and foot, respecting their right of way at all times, and 22 percent of all pedestrian deaths result from the breaking of this law, according to the California Driver Handbook. Of that 22 percent of pedestrians, it’s unreasonable to assume that not a single one was crossing when they shouldn’t have.

In a state like California where pedestrians are held to the lowest standard of responsibility, it’s unlikely that they’ll be forced to step off their pedestal any time soon.

Since pedestrians have clearly already taken their lives into their own hands while crossing the street, they should simply do so with more care. And if they aren’t willing to look up, pedestrians should be willing to accept the consequences because even a cautious driver operating well within the law would assume responsibility for the mistake of an oblivious Twitter fiend stepping into the middle of an intersection and getting hit.

They may not be law, but here are some recommendations for pedestrians and motorists alike.

Drunk and trying to get home? Use that fancy Apple Watch to call an Uber instead of glueing your eyes to a 1 1/2 inch map while crossing the street.

Outraged by President Donald Trump’s latest social media shenanigans? Take a breather and look around to clear your head during your commute to properly flesh out how you’d like to inform your massive 30-person following of what’s troubling you so deeply.

Going to be late to a meeting? Focus on getting to where you’re going instead of texting your boss because the only way you absolutely won’t make it is if you get into an accident. You’re a lot more useful alive and late than dead and not around at all.

Nothing will ever be as easy to say as “Look both ways before you cross,” but maybe it’s finally time to give pedestrians a little more responsibility because nobody should become a statistic because of a notification.

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