Crosswalk Safety

Pedestrians killed or injured in traffic accidents in Kern County and the Bakersfield area are at epidemic proportions according to latest reports by our local new media. How can we as a community prevent these tragedies?   The greatest risk is to our children, older citizens and disabled citizens.

We can make our community more pedestrian friendly.  Motorist should be mindful of people walking and use extra care when pedestrians are crossing the roads.  Often drivers pass on the right when another car is stopped at an unmarked intersection without realizing that their view is blocked.  Children are most often the victims because they mistakenly believe that they are safe if a car stops for them to cross.  For the same reason, crosswalks can be very dangerous because pedestrians think that it is safe to cross not realizing that they cannot be seen.

Motorists need to be extra cautious when they see a pedestrian in the street so that they do not needlessly endanger people by driving too fast or too aggressively for the circumstances. Even a small impact can cause head injury which can lead to serious brain injury or death such as a subdural hematoma (blood clot from bruising of the brain).

Pedestrians should take extreme caution whether they are in a crosswalk or not.  A human body is no match for a moving vehicle and even if you think you have the right of way.  When there are children in the area, driving safely requires extra diligence.  A child is hard to see when backing up. Take care to look around for playing children before getting in your car.

Citizens should warn their local county and city representatives or agencies when there is a particularly dangerous condition they are aware of.  Usually something can be done to remedy the situation to make it safer if it is made known.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warnings to pedestrians are:

  1. Increase visibility at night by carrying a flashlight or reflective clothing.
  2. Whenever possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk.
  3. Walk on a sidewalk as much as possible but if you have to walk in the street, walk facing traffic.
  4. Where a pedestrian may legally cross the street.

Pedestrians need to know what jaywalking is according to local and state law:

The California Vehicle Code  CVC Section 21961 does not statewide prohibit pedestrians from crossing roadways at locations other crosswalks.  CVC Section 21954 requires pedestrians not crossing in a crosswalk to yield to vehicles.  A pedestrian does not have the right away but must use due care crossing where there is no crosswalk.

To emphasize, even if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, he must use due care for his own safety.  Some crosswalks are particularly hazardous in high traffic areas.  Therefore, pedestrians may not walk onto a roadway into the path of approaching vehicles, even if they have the right of way.  The problem with these crosswalks is that it invites people cross in a highly dangerous area and falsely believe they are safe.  Children particularly do not have the same judgment needed to access the danger.

Jaywalking is crossing at a places specifically prohibited:

  1. “Between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or police officers”  pedestrian must walk in the crosswalk.
  2. Crosswalks can be marked or unmarked. The crosswalk is the intersection and can be unmarked.  Marked crosswalks do not have to be at the intersection.
  3. Where signs are posted prohibiting pedestrian crossing.
  4. Bakersfield Municipal Code section 10.48.020 forbids pedestrians to cross a roadway other than at a crosswalk in the central traffic district or any business district or in a school zone.  Does not apply to any parking mall.