• Take care when crossing streets on foot

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  • George C. Arzente III | Fort Campbell Installation Safety Office
    FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — I was on temporary duty at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., in December 2009 when I had an experience that reinforced the importance of pedestrian safety. I had just refueled my government vehicle on base and headed out the gate. Within five minutes, I got caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I remember thinking, “I’ll bet someone had a fender-bender ahead and now I’m stuck in this traffic.” The longer traffic continued to move at a snail’s pace, the more annoyed I became. I thought, “It was probably someone texting or talking on a cellphone. Someone wasn’t paying attention to what they were doing.”
    After about 30 minutes, the line of traffic snaked through a mall parking lot. I was stopped at a red light when I noticed a man sitting on the ground to my right. He had his back against the front tire of a police car and was holding his head in his hands. I was puzzled for a moment until I looked ahead and saw an abandoned car stopped in the left lane of traffic. Beneath it, a white sheet covered someone’s body. It struck me that the body under the sheet was awfully small for an adult. Then it hit me — it was a child!
    With 23 years working as a safety professional, I immediately felt foolish I hadn’t considered this could be a fatal accident. The next evening, when I arrived back home in Tennessee, I went on the Internet and discovered the little body under that sheet was that of a 6-year-old girl. The report said the little girl, her 5-year-old brother and her mother were walking home after Christmas shopping and had to cross a six-lane major thoroughfare.
    The mother hadn’t crossed this intersection before and didn’t know she needed to push the crosswalk button for more time to cross safely. Once the traffic light had turned red and traffic stopped in all six lanes, she and her children began crossing the intersection. She was pushing her son in a stroller and holding her daughter’s hand. They’d only passed the second lane of traffic when the light turned green. The mother said she heard a car rev its engine and, seconds later, her little girl was lying dead on the street. The mother suffered broken ribs and a broken leg. Only her son escaped injury. A background check of the driver revealed a history of traffic violations. Those included multiple tickets for speeding, running stop signs and driving with an expired license or registration.
    The driver’s statement on the crash was never published, so I don’t know his explanation of what happened. However, the fact remains that he had the respopnsibility to operate his vehicle in a safe and alert manner. Even though he had the green light, he was responsible for ensuring the crosswalk was clear in front of him. But he didn’t. As a result, a little girl lost her life in a terrible pedestrian accident.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Army is not immune to these types of accidents. According to U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center statistics, from fiscal years 2010-14, 32 soldiers died in off-duty pedestrian accidents. Three-quarters of these accidents occurred at night, and alcohol impairment was confirmed in 31 percent of the incidents and suspected in several others. More than half of the soldiers were struck by a vehicle while crossing the street or walking too close to the roadway. Three were hit from behind while exercising. Seven of the soldiers were killed near a fender-bender or a disabled vehicle, and three were hit by trains while walking or laying on the tracks.
    Nothing can be done for these soldiers. However, you don’t have to join them in the accident reports. Here are some safety tips for you when you’re traveling on foot:
    • Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk and you must walk in the roadway, always walk facing traffic.
    • Dress to be seen. Wearing bright or light-colored clothing helps drivers see you. Reflective clothing is the best, but never assume drivers can or have seen you.
    • Cross streets only at marked crosswalks or intersections.
    • If crossing a multilane roadway, pedestrians should visually clear each lane as they proceed.
    • If a car is parked where you are trying to cross, look for other drivers who may be pulling out and not see you because they are looking for traffic.
    • Remember that telephone poles, utility boxes and parked vehicles block an oncoming driver’s ability to see you.
    • Look LEFT – RIGHT – LEFT in countries like the United States, where motorists drive on the right side of the street. In Japan or other nations where drivers use the left side of the road, look RIGHT – LEFT – RIGHT prior to entering the street.
    • Give drivers ample time to stop before you enter the crosswalk.
    • Crossing at locations with traffic signals helps motorists see you.
    • Wearing headphones while walking, skating, jogging, bicycling or riding a motorcycle on post is prohibited. If you choose to wear headphones off post, always remove them while crossing the street so you can hear approaching traffic.
    • Always hold a child by the hand while crossing a street. Remember, walk — don’t run.
    • If the intersection has a pedestrian walk button, press it and cross when you are cleared to go, keeping in mind that all crosswalks do not allow the same amount of time to cross.
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