Dear Reader,

Vienna, Virginia, recently introduced a pedestrian safety initiative, placing signs at crosswalks asking individuals to make eye contact with drivers before crossing.  The concept is straightforward.  Before you step on the road, make eye contact with the driver, make sure they are aware of your presence, and then move safely across.  The goal is to enhance pedestrian safety. Still, some residents are not happy.

A 4Washington reporter recently interviewed locals who voiced concerns. (Click here for the full story  Pedestrian Safety Initiative.) They said drivers in these areas are notorious for speeding and reckless behavior.  They doubted some drivers approaching the crosswalks would even bother to look for a pedestrian, let alone make eye contact with them.

These residents believe there should be a more significant emphasis on driver responsibility. They argue that drivers should be more vigilant when approaching crosswalks, always yielding the right of way to pedestrians, and adhering to speed limits.

Of course, they’re right.  A driver plays a critical role in pedestrian safety.  Drivers who behave in predictable ways and obey signals and speed limits make it easier for pedestrians to get around safely.

Still, making eye contact with a driver is an effective and easy strategy that complements, rather than replaces, the driver’s responsibility when operating a vehicle.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of both the driver and the pedestrian to make sure everyone stays safe on the road.  Still, most of the time, it’s the pedestrian who has more to lose.  If a distracted driver runs a stoplight and hits you, while it’s true you had the right of way, it doesn’t change your outcome, heal your broken bones, or bring your child back to life.

There’s an old saying, “You may have the right of way, but you don’t want to be dead right.”

Just because you have the legal right to proceed doesn’t excuse your obligation to yourself to be cautious and stay aware of your surroundings. Prioritize your safety.  You don’t want the words, “He had the right of way” on your tombstone.

Below are a few safety tips to review.   Talk to your kids about these and make sure they understand the importance of vigilance when interacting with cars on the road and at crosswalks.

  1. Crosswalks are your safest bet: Use designated crosswalks when crossing the street. Drivers are supposed to be looking out for pedestrians in these areas, which makes it generally safer to cross the road.
  2. Be visible: When possible, wear bright or reflective clothing, especially when walking at night. This makes it easier for drivers to see you.
  3. Stay alert: Put away distractions such as smartphones or earphones when crossing the road. Just like drivers should be aware of you, your full attention should be on traffic.
  4. Look left, right, left: This age-old advice is still relevant. Always check both directions before crossing the road. A speeding vehicle can cover a lot of ground fast; looking twice could save your life.
  5. Make eye contact: As Vienna’s new initiative suggests, a quick moment of eye contact can help ensure that a driver is aware of your presence.

Vienna’s new safety initiative is a commendable step towards a safer community. As a pedestrian, you have a responsibility to yourself to commute in the safest way possible.  Still, drivers need to keep their eyes and minds on the road at all times.

If you or someone you care about is ever injured due to a negligent driver, please call my office.  I have over 40 years of experience fighting for the rights of my clients and am happy to put my expertise and that of my teams to work for you.   Call 703-761-4343 or 301-949-1515.

Until next time, please be safe, and NEVER drink or text while driving!

Paul Samakow

Attorney Paul Samakow

703-761-4343 or 301-949-1515.


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