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Portland, Oregon

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Joshua Shulman
Joshua Shulman
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Pedestrian Crosswalk Death Highlights Nighttime Dangers and Safety

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A horrific pedestrian accident a few days ago in Portland serves as a grim reminder of the importance for drivers to pay extra attention once the sun sets and for pedestrians to use extreme caution while crossing the street at night – even in well-marked crosswalks. And with the recent time change, rush hour falls on some of the most dangerous hours to drive. There are more people – drivers and pedestrians alike – and therefore more chances for something like this to happen. The tragedy also showcases the need for cities to be sure their streets and intersections are well-lit to help keep their populations safe.

According to Portland’s NewsChannel 8:

Two women were hit by a car and one of them died as they tried to walk across a crosswalk in Southeast Portland on Sunday night, Nov. 2, 2009. Police said the crosswalk was clearly marked but the driver did not see the pedestrians in the dark.

The women were thrown onto the car’s windshield when they were struck. Police said 23-year-old Lindsay Leonard was killed in the crash and her 29-year-old roommate, Jessica Finlay, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

People who live nearby said the intersection was poorly lit and it’s always been a dangerous place to cross the street at night.

It is so sad and unfortunate that something as simple as crossing a crosswalk could be fatal, but the tragic truth is that accidents like this happen all too often, especially in poorly lit areas like this one at night. There are many cases of late-night pedestrian accidents in Oregon, like the case of the drunk man who hit two teenagers crossing their city’s only crosswalk during halftime of the local football game. In fact, 54% of pedestrian deaths recorded in 2003 happened between the hours of 4 pm and midnight, when it is hardest for drivers to see people in the road.

Thankfully, there are simple safety precautions both drivers and pedestrians can follow to help ensure that our roads stay safe.

Drivers:

-Pedestrians do not always cross at crosswalks, so always be on the lookout for people in the road.

-Be especially careful if it is dark or the weather is rough, it may be harder to see pedestrians.

-Always drive the speed limit, especially in urban areas or near crosswalks, in case you have to stop quickly to avoid a collision.

- If you are attempting to turn onto a new street, watch for pedestrians crossing into your intended path.

-Be careful around school areas, since children are less likely to understand and follow safe pedestrian behavior.

-DO NOT drink and drive, or do anything to impair your ability to be a safe driver.

-In general: PAY ATTENTION

Pedestrians:

-Walk in areas where drivers can anticipate you. Choose crosswalk areas and sidewalks over freeways or restricted zones when at all possible. Also, obey traffic signals.

-If you must walk on the road, walk facing traffic, so that you can see the vehicles coming toward you.

-Dress in light or reflective colors, especially at night, to make it easier for drivers to see you.

-Always be aware of your surroundings, and be very cautious when crossing large highways or high-speed roads.

-Don’t assume that a driver sees you, always err on the side of safety.

-Do not drink alcohol if you are planning on walking anywhere; alcohol affects your judgment and reaction time just as it affects someone who is driving a car.

The state of Oregon has laws in place to help reduce the number of pedestrian accidents that occur in the state every year. These laws mandate that drivers stop and remain stopped for pedestrians crossing at intersections and traffic lights until the pedestrians have cleared a safe area around the vehicle.

These laws should help crack down on irresponsible drivers, and will hopefully make pedestrian deaths a thing of the past.

Members of the community should also be active in making neighborhoods safer. If there is an intersection that you think is unsafe, report it. And don’t be afraid to repeatedly address the problem. Get your neighbors involved. Volunteer your time and money, too, if you feel it is important enough to have a safe neighborhood. Be a community of action.