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BEACHCOMBER: I Learned safe walking rules in Grammar School

  • By David Barron

By Dave Barron

Everything I ever needed to learn about being a safe pedestrian, I learned in grammar school (now called “elementary school”).
The lessons were quite basic and it seems redundant to repeat them, except that several people die or get hurt each year in auto-pedestrian accidents in Monterey Park and throughout the western San Gabriel Valley. Today, both drivers and people on foot frequently go about their travels while in a “distracted” mode.

There’s nothing worse than a distracted driver, using a cell phone or fooling with a radio, or a distracted pedestrian -- also using cell phone or maybe daydreaming. One of your key defense mechanisms is your hearing. You can normally hear a car motor, the sounds of car braking or a siren. You can’t hear anything if you have a cell phone plugged into your ear. The issue is so important that new electric vehicles are being required to make a noise of some kind to warn pedestrians.
It seems we are always in a hurry. My friend Pedro says some drivers are in a hurry so that they won’t miss their own funeral. Some walkers appear to be on a suicide mission, wishing to end their lives and find relief from their trouble-filled life.
The First Lesson I learned was to “pay attention” to what I was doing when operating machinery, no matter if it was a power saw or a car. When walking, I was always advised to be aware of my environment and what’s going on. You never know when someone is going to drop a piano from a second floor.
In those days, most of us walked to school because our parents had only one car -- if they had a car. Today, with the price of gas and cars, many people are walking to nearby places, such as a school, market or to a restaurant.
The Second Lesson I was taught was to look both ways when crossing a street and pay full attention. Then, don’t step off the curb until the coast is clear, meaning no cars were coming.
Why so cautious? Because if you see a car some distance away that is traveling at a high rate of speed, don’t cross. A car traveling 35 miles per hour will get to you in seconds. A car is faster than you are and it needs a lot of room to stop, even while braking. You won’t win this confrontation
Third Lesson was that a car weighs a couple of thousand pounds and you would have no chance of winning in a confrontation. What good does it do you if your tombstone says,” He had the right-of-way, but wasn’t big or fast enough.”
The Fourth solid bit of wisdom is to never put your faith in protection from a crosswalk. It is just a line in the pavement, not a protective wall. Most drivers can’t even see a crosswalk until they are just a few feet from it. The lesson is “don’t use a cross walk until all traffic is clear.”
Fifth Rule: Never walk against a yellow or red signal light! Even if there are no cars visible, don’t cross the street against the light. I learned this the hard way because either there will be a traffic officer nearby, or a car will appear out of nowhere, ready to mow you down.
Sixth Lesson: When crossing a street, walk quickly, but don’t run. If you have to run, that means you are already at a disadvantage and in danger. If you are trying to catch a bus, don’t worry the driver will wait for you unless he/she is a jerk. And so what, another bus will come soon.
Meanwhile, you can stay alive for another day in this wonderful world.

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