Pedestrian, vehicle accidents: Unnecessary mishaps

  • Published
  • By John Decker
  • 11th Wing Safety Office
Historically, across Bolling the pedestrian and vehicle mishaps have remained low, about one a year, but even that low number is way too high when we consider the possible outcomes.

In January, a base employee was struck by a car while crossing a street outside of a crosswalk. Fortunately, the employee was not seriously hurt.

Across the nation pedestrian deaths account for approximately 12 percent of all motor vehicle related fatalities. Annually in the U.S. approximately 5,000 pedestrians are killed by automobiles (13 a day) and another 61,000 pedestrians are injured. Some of these mishaps occur in parking lots.

Parking lot accidents are insidious because unexpected situations can happen with the vehicles. A foot can slip off of a clutch, vehicles slip into gear, or vehicles can overshoot parking places after drivers hit the gas when they are trying to hit the brake. In addition parked vehicles often obstruct the driver's view, while pedestrians are not always aware of their surroundings. Drivers in parking lots are looking for a parking place and not necessarily looking forward. The speed limit in base parking lots is only 5 mph. Some drivers are either unaware of the limit or choose not to comply and speed recklessly through the lots. This gives the drivers and pedestrians very little reaction time when the unexpected does occur.

Just as often, however, some pedestrians assume they have the right of way simply because they are on foot. Pedestrians don't always use crosswalks - even when readily available. Pedestrians also often expect approaching vehicles to stop while they cross. Most state laws (including Maryland and Virginia) require pedestrians not using a crosswalk to yield the right of way to vehicles. The warning is also very clearly stated in Air Force Joint Manual 24-306, Chapter 7 (Manual for the Wheeled Vehicle Driver), "When you cross a street, cross at an intersection or crosswalk if one is available."

The following advice should help prevent these mishaps and near misses:

Pedestrians should:
· Walk defensively in parking lots. Expect the unexpected. Don't let vehicles surprise you.
· Make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of or behind them.
· Don't step into traffic from between parked cars. Drivers probably cannot see you.
· Watch closely for vehicles that are turning or backing up.

Drivers should:
· Remember, the speed limit in all of Bolling parking lots is 5 mph unless otherwise posted, and 25 mph on the street unless otherwise posted.
· Always be aware of your surroundings while travelling in the parking lots. Be vigilant for pedestrians.
· Yield the right of way (stop) for pedestrians in crosswalks.
· Be sensitive and courteous to others.

The bottom line for everyone is to see and be seen. We must emphasize that as a pedestrian, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety. Likewise, vehicle operators must constantly be on the lookout for pedestrians, comply with posted speed limits and expect the unexpected. Remember, safety is everyone's responsibility.