ST. GEORGE — Two recent reports of children being struck by a vehicle while crossing an intersection near Little Valley Elementary School in the past month are fueling concerns in the community over pedestrian safety.
Both incidents involved children crossing in the intersection of South Little Valley Road and East Crimson Ridge Drive several blocks from the elementary school.
For children ages 5 to 19, being hit by a car is the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S., according to Safe Kids Worldwide, with teenagers at an even greater risk with a death rate twice that of younger children.
Teaching children how to cross the street correctly and safely can save lives.
Anytime accidents with pedestrians occur, especially if school-age children are involved, significant emotional responses and public indignation typically follow.
Parents and civic leaders are persistent in their demands for more signs, markings and signals in and around schools and demands often rise after such accidents, Sgt. Craig Harding, traffic supervisor with the St. George Police Department, said.
“If all the requests were met, there would have to be many more adult school crossing guards,” Harding said, “as well as more traffic signals, signs and markings in various parts of the city.”
These requests, however, are not always in line with sound traffic engineering, he added. Studies show that putting more controls in place can even lessen the respect for the devices that are already in place.
Crosswalks play a vital role in pedestrian safety. There are marked crosswalks, such as the one near Little Valley Elementary, but sometimes a crosswalk is not as clearly defined. Information provided in the Utah Traffic Code – Chapter 41 can help clarify and explain the role of crosswalks.
In Utah, vehicles approaching a stop or yield sign must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within an adjacent crosswalk. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection
Utah law defines “crosswalk” as the part of the roadway that extends “from the sidewalk across to the other side of the road, or from the curb to the other side of the road,” or where markings are displayed in the roadway at intersections. More information about Utah’s traffic code governing motor vehicles, pedestrians and traffic control devices can be found on the state’s legislative website here.
The traffic code states that crosswalks exist in every intersection. They may be marked or unmarked, but they exist just the same. The traffic code also prohibits pedestrians from walking in the roadway if there is a sidewalk.
Finally, the traffic code provides for the unexpected in situations when all else fails, requiring drivers to use “due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians, no matter where they are.”
This statement reinforces the idea that everyone is responsible when it comes to keeping children safe as they cross the street or walk alongside roadways.
For young children, learning to cross the street safely takes time. The perceptual abilities of children are slow to develop, making them less adept at making calculations that are critical when crossing the street, according to a 2012 study conducted at the University of London.
One of these crucial calculations refers to the child’s ability to determine the speed of approaching cars. Young children are three times as likely to get hit by a car when traffic speed exceeds 25 miles an hour, the study states.
Not only do drivers need more reaction time to stop their vehicles when they are traveling at higher speeds, but the research suggests that young pedestrians simply can’t see the cars coming in the first place.
Another report by Safe Kids Worldwide, “Facts About Injuries to Child Pedestrians,” shows that motorists often violate stop sign rules at intersections in school zones and residential neighborhoods.
Forty-five percent of drivers don’t come to a complete stop while 37 percent roll through the stop sign and 7 percent don’t even slow down, Safe Kids Worldwide reports.
Pedestrian safety tips
These tips are provided by Safe Kids Worldwide:
- Always cross at corners and crosswalks, not diagonally or between parked cars.
- Stop before stepping into the road; look left, look right and look left again, listen for traffic and wait until cars stop or the street is clear.
- Look drivers in the eye to make sure they’ve seen you.
- Keep looking and listening until you’ve crossed the street.
- Encourage kids to be especially alert for cars that are turning or backing up.
- If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
- Children under 10 need to cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.
One of the primary goals of the Utah Department of Transportation’s Traffic and Safety Division is to improve safety in the areas surrounding schools. Programs implemented statewide support that aim.
One such program is the Safe Routes To School program that supports crossing improvements and educational programs that promote safe walking and bicycling to and from elementary, middle and junior high schools.
The Student Neighborhood Access Program, also known as SNAP, is a fun and comprehensive program for walking and biking safely to school that engages and educates students, parents, school administrators, crossing guards and communities.
- APS – Why Kids Get Hit by Cars
- New Research Uncovers Alarming Dangers in School Zones 2016
- Heads Up Utah – Zero Fatalities 2016
- Safe Kids Worldwide 2016
- UDOT – SNAP program
- UDOT – SRTS program
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