Crossing risk

By on March 9, 2016

322 West 20160303_070851_FotorWhile pedestrians have the right-of-way over vehicles in a crosswalk, officials remind:

“It’s still a “negotiation between parties.”

By Patrick Burns

The intersection where a vehicle hit a 3-year-old Ephrata boy and his 63-year-old grandmother March 1 has a history.

Ephrata Police Lieutenant Christopher McKim noted an almost identical event in November where a car hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk at West Main and North Church streets.

While an official list is being prepared on pedestrians involved in traffic incidents within crosswalks in Ephrata, McKim noted “there have been several pedestrians struck in crosswalks over the past two and a half years or so.”

ER Church & Main Curch South“First of all, I’m glad the accidents have not been worse,” he said. “Because when there’s a vehicle and a pedestrian, the vehicle is going to win.”

The March 1 incident was first thought to be very serious – both pedestrians were transported to Hershey Medical Center – but ended in only minor injuries.

Woman in walk_FotorMcKim on Monday explained the details of that accident in which a vehicle – driven eastbound on Main St. by a 28-year-old female from Ephrata – waited at a green light to turn left on North Church Street.

At the same time, the grandmother and two young children – who reacted to the illuminated “clear to walk” indicator – also traveled east into the crosswalk for a “lawful crossing” on Main Street.

This pedestrian accident is typical of what has occurred in Ephrata, McKim noted, in that, “By and large those accidents involved a turning motion on the part of the motorist.”

The waiting driver yielded to oncoming traffic from two west-bound vehicles before turning left directly into the crosswalk.

It would appear the woman saw the first young boy step on the sidewalk while turning but didn’t see the other two who were struck in the crosswalk.

McKim said the driver would be cited for a clear , but noted some mitigating circumstances in that side windshield posts and oncoming traffic causes some “visual clutter.”

And, while the woman was in violation of the traffic code, McKim said pedestrians need to remain cautious at all times.

20160308_140433“The crosswalk is just a marked place, so pedestrians need to be vigilant when crossing,” he said. “Just because pedestrians have the right-of-way doesn’t mean is everyone in the area is going to give you the right-of-way.”

There was no shortage of feedback to this story last week on social media. Karen Mead noted that she has used the Main and Church intersection twice a day for five years.

“The light cycle is short (and it’s) difficult to get through the intersection before the light changes,” she said. “I’ve noticed traffic racing to beat the light occasionally, forcing pedestrians to run through the crosswalk.”

Rick Plowmaker was one of several other suggested the intersection needs a longer “walk” cycle and commented on the poor sight-line for drivers.

“Five, 10, or 15 seconds of all red for pedestrians would surely help there,” he wrote. “It is an awkward sight line for drivers and there are plenty of children and elderly moving around that corner. Yeah it will cost money, but the next people won’t survive. Same problem at State and Main (streets), someone will die there.”20160308_140423

Still, many others commented on how drivers distracted by smart phones and texting while driving plague the roads these days.

“I live on Main Street,” wrote Kathy Kautz. “People drive their cars way too fast. They are on cell phones, not paying attention to red lights.”

Others point out common factors that affect most downtown areas: tight turn ratios due to narrow streets, and cars parked close to intersections that cause driver visibility problems – to see pedestrians on the crosswalk.

Kirk Deeter made a solid summation after reading about the injured 3-year-old – who received tremendous support from thousands of Ephrata residents on Facebook.

“I think we as drivers are more and more impatient and always in a rush to get places. Distractions such as radio, phone, kids in car contribute to this,” Deeter added. “Now as a pedestrian we too must be aware of our surroundings, whether on a sidewalk or at a crosswalk.

McKim noted that even though pedestrians are protected legally in crosswalk, crossing is still a kind of “negotiation between the parties,” he said.

“The more aware a pedestrian can be of how many variables there are the better,” McKim said.

Deeter echoed McKim’s thoughts, stating “Yes we do have the right of way in a crosswalk and most vehicles will stop for us to proceed.”

“But take a second look and then walk. Be safe out there. Remember, a vehicle will do more damage to you than you will to it,” he wrote.

“Glad to see everyone involved will make full recovery.”

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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Social media editor and staff writer for Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.

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