News: Give crosswalks, street signs ‘right-of-way’
Story by Spc. Paul Holston
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - At about 5:30 a.m., on a nippy, foggy morning, students from the Air Force Combat Control School on Pope Field began marching in formation from the Kitty Hawk Dining Facility to the school. As they began to walk through a marked crosswalk, a motorist, unaware of the students, was driving 50 miles per hour and came to a screeching halt right in front of them, missing the students by inches.
Frightening instances such as these have been happening both on Pope Field and Fort Bragg, with an increase in pedestrian incidents throughout the installations in the last few months.
With Fort Bragg being the largest post in the Army by population and with constant traffic throughout the day, drivers and pedestrians must be fully aware of their surroundings, as well as obey crosswalks and street signs.
“Accident prevention and safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said Bruce Elliott, XVIII Airborne Corps Safety/Risk Program manager. “Both drivers and pedestrians should always be aware of their surroundings at all times while on the road.”
Elliott said the most common incident has been near misses, involving automobiles more often than motorcycles.
“Speeding, talking on cell phones and texting while driving all have been the biggest factors,” he said. “We’ve even had instances of negligence such as drivers turning right on red, unaware of a pedestrian crossing at an intersection, resulting in bumping or brushing them,” Elliott said.
“It’s a combination of two things,” said Richard Eppler, garrison safety manager, “The first is that motorists don’t realize that they are required to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. The second is that pedestrians don’t want to wait for vehicles to pass by and step in the crosswalk thinking that it’s a barrier. The bottom line is that someone can get seriously injured or killed by ignoring these rules and laws.”
Wearing dark clothing during times of low visibility can also increase the hazards and risks associated with near misses or fatal collisions.
“It is highly recommended and encouraged that pedestrians wear reflective material or light colors that stand out so they can be seen,” said Elliott.
According to pedestrian laws of North Carolina, which are enforced on Fort Bragg and Pope Field, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections and driveways. However, pedestrians must act responsibly in using pedestrian signals where they are available.
When crossing the road anywhere other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk or when walking along or upon a highway, a pedestrian must yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway. It is the duty of pedestrians to look both ways before starting across a highway as well as keep a timely lookout for approaching motor vehicle traffic.
Fort Bragg and Pope Field also prohibit texting and talking on a cell phone while operating a vehicle, unless the driver is using a hands-free devices.
Disobeying these laws could lead to dire consequences, ranging from traffic citations, to severe injuries and even death.
Jaywalking has been one of the major violations seen recently on Fort Bragg, Eppler said. He added that if a pedestrian is not in a crosswalk and gets struck by a vehicle, he or she can be cited for jaywalking.
According to the Directorate of Public Works, a study in March 2011 showed that in a 12-hour period on Reilly and Gruber roads, there were as many as 19,000 vehicles on the road. Currently, the peak hours of traffic are before and after physical training in the morning between 6 and 7:45 a.m., lunchtime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and evening hours between 4 and 6 p.m.
While DPW is continuing it’s efforts to ensure all safety procedures including crosswalks and street signs are to standard throughout the installation, officials encourage drivers and pedestrians to take the responsibility for safety not just for themselves, but for everyone on the road.
“A sign means nothing without enforcement,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Creager, senior engineer adviser for DPW. “A near miss is a failure on everyone’s part.”
Being aware of your surroundings is the key to ensure driver and pedestrian safety.
Eppler said pedestrians should make sure to look left, right, and left again, maintain eye contact with the operator of a vehicle and not assume that drivers are going to automatically stop. Drivers should pay attention to the road, obey speed limits, respect and honor pedestrian crossings, avoid distractions and be patient, he said.
“Understand that driving is a privilege, not a right. It can be easily taken away,” said Eppler. “There is a responsibility for all of us operating a vehicle and enforcing safety — take it seriously.
“What’s the harm in braking, coming to a stop and being friendly? Life is too short to live it so fast,” said Elliott.