It should be simple and safe to cross the street: always use a crosswalk, look both ways and pay attention to traffic. But the reality is that crossing the street can be really dangerous.
A few years ago, a motorist hit and seriously injured a student in a crosswalk on N. State Street while the student was walking to school. At the time, there was a crossing guard at the intersection, the area was clearly marked as a school zone, and other cars had stopped to allow students to cross. Tragically, one driver did not stop and the student in the crosswalk did not see the oncoming vehicle. We need to do all we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Since this terrible accident, the City of Ukiah has made school crossings more prominent and noticeable. Here at the Ukiah Police Department (UPD), we now have a visible police presence at schools each morning and afternoon to remind drivers how important it is to watch out for pedestrians.
But there is always more we can do. As the weather warms up and more kids walk and bike to school, now’s a great time to review bike and pedestrian safety.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider discussing some of these myths about pedestrian safety with your children:
Myth 1 – A green light means it is safe to cross the street.
Fact 1 – A green light means you should look for cars and only cross when it is safe. Continue looking for cars as you cross.
Myth 2 – You are safe in a crosswalk.
Fact 2 – Sometimes drivers can’t see you. The law requires cars to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk, but always make eye contact with drivers while you’re in a crosswalk to make sure they’re stopping for you.
Myth 3 – Drivers will stop if you’re in a crosswalk or at an intersection about to cross.
Fact 3 – Drivers are sometimes distracted, their view may be blocked, or they may not see you. If you’re not sure whether you’ve been seen, stop and wait for the car to pass.
Myth 4 – It’s fine to wear headphones or talk on your cell phone while crossing the street.
Fact 4 – Please put your phone and ear buds away so you can see and HEAR what’s happening around you. Your life may depend on it!
And if you or your kids ride bikes in traffic, please consider these safety tips:
Act like a Car. Drivers are used to the patterns of other drivers. Don’t weave in and out of traffic. The more predictably you ride, the safer you’ll be. Be aware of traffic around you.
Stay Visible. If drivers can see you, they are less likely to hit you. Wear brightly colored clothes and turn on lights when biking in low-light conditions, especially at night.
Don’t Get Distracted. Pay attention to your surroundings while you ride. Don’t listen to music or talk on the phone.
Look, Signal and Look Again. Use hand signals to let drivers and other bicyclists know where you’re going. Look around and make eye contact before pulling in front of someone. Don’t assume drivers will stop.
Obey All Traffic Laws and Lights. Just because you’re riding a bike doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop at a stop sign or red light–drivers and bicyclists must follow the rules of the road.
Stay Alert. Keep a lookout for obstacles in your path.
If you’re a motorist, please think of bicycles as cars without safety features—no seat belts or crumple zones, no air bags, nothing between the person and the road.
We can all make Ukiah a bit safer if we share the road, watch out for each other, and slow down!
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve, please call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.