During the daily commute to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, drivers need to remember that as soon as they park their cars and walk into work, they are pedestrians.
As daylight hours grow shorter, pedestrian visibility becomes curtailed. With many employees working second and third shifts at Pax, drivers must be even more cognizant of people walking on base and practice patience.
Nowadays, our fixation with electronic devices —while illegal — add to the possibility of pedestrian accidents and fatalities based on negligence in adhering to basic pedestrian safety rules.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) August 2013 report, “pedestrians and drivers do not obey laws and signals consistently and many often use cell phones and music players while walking or driving.” The NHTSA also found that pedestrians accounted for 14 percent of the total traffic deaths in 2011.
At Pax, the crosswalk traffic signals that were installed around the installation about three years ago are probably the safest aid to pedestrian travel on base, said Beverly Jeffas, traffic safety program manager at Pax River.
“Our solar-powered signaling system has conspicuous yellow flashing strobe lights mounted 10 feet high, which is close enough to driver’s eye level that it demands their immediate attention,” she said. “When a pedestrian presses a button to cross the street, the strobe signal usually lasts for about 30 seconds.”
Jeffas said drivers must remember basic driving rules — pedestrians always have the right of way in crosswalks. This includes with or without the use of the flashing crossing lights. Drivers must stop for pedestrians at all marked crosswalks and wait for them to cross the street completely before proceeding past them.
Pedestrians must also be mindful to use the crosswalks properly.
“The crossing lights only work when they are properly utilized,” Jeffas said. “When you are ready to cross the street, press the button, but look for traffic to make sure they have stopped, too.”
In fact, Jeffas said there have been many occasions when pedestrians are either guilty of one or both of these scenarios: not pressing the button to operate the signal; or, in an attempt to cross the street, they hit the button as they rush into the crosswalk, not giving vehicles adequate time to safely stop for them.
So, it takes both driver and pedestrian to make pedestrian injury prevention a priority at Pax.
Pedestrians should use only marked crosswalks and wait for cars to come to a complete stop before entering these spaces, and drivers should remember the old look left-right-left approach to safeguard pedestrian traffic.
These rules of thumb can also be used in any community this Halloween as little goblins, ghosts and other creatures caravan around the neighborhoods, Oct. 31.