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Observance of a simple rule could save a life

By Staff | Jan 22, 2016

Recently we lost a bright and diligent young man who was struck and killed by a car while walking on one of our local roads. It was a tragic event for his family and loved ones as undoubtedly it must have been for the person driving the car. Further from all reports, he was the kind of young person that we can ill-afford to lose in our community.

What makes the impact of his death very troubling is that it probably could have been prevented by observance of the simple precaution of walking on the correct side of the road facing traffic. Since the incident we have been dismayed by the frequency with which we see people walking along the side of the road with their backs to traffic. It was a basic safety rule taught to us in grade school and frequently reinforced by teachers, parents and community leaders and hard to understand now why it is so often ignored. I guess the problem maybe be simply that we drive too much and walk too little. We get too casual about both modes of travel.

Pedestrians, maybe particularly in the case of young people with limited driving experience, all too often seem to make the false assumption that drivers will see them clearly and do so soon enough to avoid hitting them. Since most of our secondary roads here in West Virginia have no shoulders, anyone walking has little choice but to be on the edge of the roadway. As a consequence, drivers must maneuver to avoid them. The complexity of the situation is compounded by the practice of most present- day drivers who tend to speed up and force on-coming autos to share any remaining roadway regardless of the circumstances. Always in a hurry, they refuse to yield and wait until it is safe to pass. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it is a pedestrian, an emergency vehicle, some local farm equipment or just an obstruction. It is a dangerous situation.

And of course it doesn’t help if either the driver and or pedestrian (at times both) are impaired by wearing a walkman, talking on a cell phone, texting, using some other technological toy or simply distracted. Once an accident happens, remorse provides little or no comfort.

It is a different and slightly more complex scenario when we need to maneuver around a cyclist who correctly shares the right side of the roadway with us. But even there, a little patience and common courtesy make a huge difference.

It would seem to be a simple matter of increasing awareness and following basic safety precautions to save a life, maybe our own. We are foolish to assume that the other person will always see us and be responsible enough to do the right thing. Good drivers wouldn’t think of driving on the wrong side of the road and we shouldn’t walk there.


Mike and Bonnie Austin