Stop, Look, Listen!
Long ago, I learned that advice well. When I was a sixth-grader at St. Cloud’s Washington School, I volunteered as a patrol guard at the intersection of 8th Avenue S. and 8th Street S.
Before extending my red “Stop” flag, I would remind all the students who were ready to cross always to stop, look and listen before crossing any street.
Pedestrian and bicyclers’ deaths have drastically increased nationwide in recent years. In 2021, there were 57 pedestrians killed in Minnesota, including some in the St. Cloud area. That was 15 more than the average of 42 deaths in each of the previous 13 years.
I tremble with dread every time I hear of a pedestrian being hit by a vehicle. That is because about 20 years ago, I witnessed such an accident. On a summer day, after leaving the St. Cloud Post Office, I was driving on the street going west. At the first intersection ahead of me, about a block from the post office, I saw an older woman step into the street, starting to cross toward the north. She did not stop, look or listen. She seemed oblivious to her surroundings and quickly walked as if she were on a mission, in a hurry. Meantime, a car just ahead of me passed me on the right, and the driver seemed to be completely unaware of the quickly walking woman ahead.
I flinched, thinking, “Oh, my God, she’s gonna get hit!”
A couple split seconds later, she did. It’s one of the most utterly awful sights I’d ever seen. When the car hit her, she was violently flung about eight feet up into the air like a flailing ragdoll before falling to the street. I passed the accident scene and pulled my car over, then soon heard sirens. She cannot possibly have lived through that, I kept thinking, as she was placed in an ambulance. Later, to my amazement, I learned that she’d lived, injured but alive and later released from the hospital.
I cannot forget the sight of that collision; it was hideous, it was grotesque, it was just awful. And every time I hear of a pedestrian or biker accident, I see in vivid memory that “ragdoll” tossed into the air.
Pedestrian accidents are caused by two main factors – inattention of the walker-runner and/or an inattentive or careless motorist, very often a speeding or inebriated driver.
Here are safety tips for pedestrians:
Whenever possible, cross streets only where there is a marked crossing. Never forget to stop, look, listen. That includes looking over your shoulder at intersections to make sure no motorist is about to turn onto the street you plan to cross.
Try to avoid at all costs walking right next to a highway or freeway.
Look for signs of a vehicle going too fast or moving erratically on the road or its driver seeming to be oblivious of surroundings.
On rural roads especially, walk or bike facing the oncoming traffic so you can plainly see what is coming toward you and take evasive action if need be.
Here are safety tips for drivers:
Always, always obey the speed limits, and in adverse weather conditions (fog, snow, slippery streets) slow down, well under the speed limit.
Allow pedestrians to cross safely whether or not they are in a marked crosswalk.
Slow down and, if possible, move well away from a walker or bicyclist on the side of the road as you pass. It’s also good to give a honk well before you reach walkers/cyclists if their backs are turned to you.
While driving, scan sides of roadways for pedestrians, especially in neighborhoods where children or pets can dash onto a street without warning.
Those tips should be discussed in detail with children, with all family members, with relatives, with friends and acquaintances. And those tips should be reviewed every now and then.
Instill in children especially that all-important advisory of “Stop, Look, Listen.”