Crosswalk safety matters

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Johnson Space Center is comprised of numorous buildings and dozens of winding streets and walkways that connect buildings, roadways and parking lots. The center’s picturesque campus is very pedestrian-friendly as JSC team members make their way through the maze of crosswalks.

Proper road usage is everyone’s responsibility, whether it involves operating a vehicle or moving on foot. It is imperative to point out that vehicles on major road routes have the initial right of way, and they have a responsibility to yield to pedestrians once the pedestrian has officially entered the crosswalk.

A constant problem here onsite and a continued unsafe practice by pedestrians is that as pedestrians approach the crosswalk, they continue to proceed (without breaking stride) and walk directly into the crosswalk without securing the “right” to enter.

Securing the “right” to enter means that all traffic has yielded or actually stopped for the pedestrian prior to them walking out of the place of safety. The term “place of safety” refers to the sidewalk or curb where the crosswalk begins/ends, depending on which direction the pedestrians are headed. This is standard and consistent with center policy and state statues.

Only leave the crosswalk after securing the right to enter and the oncoming vehicles have yielded or stopped completely.
Only leave the crosswalk after securing the right to enter and the oncoming vehicles have yielded or stopped completely.
As stated in the JSC Vehicle Code, http://www6.jsc.nasa.gov/ja/, Section 12.0, Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety, Table 6-Pedestrian Rules:

-- Do not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it’s impossible for the driver to stop or yield.

-- When preparing to enter a crosswalk, ensure that you know that you are seen by the approaching traffic prior to stepping off the curb or proceeding further into the crosswalk.

-- Wait on the curb, not in the street, until it is safe to enter a crosswalk or until a traffic signal changes to green or reads “Walk.”

In addition, and consistent with Texas State Statue, Transportation Code, Title 7, Vehicle and Traffic, Subtitle C, Rules of the Road, Chapter 522. Pedestrians, Section 522.003, (a) and (b), states:

(a) The operator of a vehicle shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing a roadway in a crosswalk if:(1) no traffic control signal is in place or in operation; and(2) the pedestrian is:(a) on the half of the roadway in which the vehicle is traveling; or(b) approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), a pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and proceed into a crosswalk in the path of a vehicle so close that it is impossible for the vehicle operator to yield.

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Always be aware of your surroundings while on the move.
Source: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/TN/htm/TN.552.htm

These two policies clearly state that the pedestrian has the primary responsibility to stop and stand on the sidewalk/curb PRIOR to entering any crosswalk. Pedestrians must ensure that all traffic has started to yield or actually stopped before leaving the position of safety.

Also, prior to entering any crosswalk, the pedestrian must allow a reasonable distance of safety for the traffic to stop without causing a traffic hazard. Importantly, once the traffic has stopped completely, the pedestrian can then safely enter the crosswalk. If a pedestrian leaves the place of safety prior to securing the “right” to enter first, they, themselves, have created a traffic hazard for all.

“Vehicles on the major roadway have the right of way, and many folks here are not aware that pedestrians have a responsibility to request the right to enter the crosswalk,” said Wayne Sings, JSC Security specialist. “Where does the common sense factor come in? Different people interpret things differently, so people just have to be aware of their surroundings.”

As with many different situations, there are as many different perceptions and interpretations of what the law allows such as distance of stopping, how far back a vehicle is positioned and much more. The scenarios are endless when pondering all the what-ifs. With that in mind, the pedestrian must put safety first and stand on the curb until it is safe to enter any crosswalk.

Both pedestrians and drivers can become distracted and lose focus of where they are going and what is around them. Many times, people are seen walking with their eyes on a cell phone or device rather than their surroundings. And although this is not permitted while driving, it occurs behind the wheel as well.

The best practice for drivers and pedestrians is to always be fully aware of your surroundings while on the move. One of the biggest and most commonly heard misconceptions is that pedestrians have the right of way, but it is just that … a misconception.

Neesha Hosein
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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Updated: 03/30/2011