Pedestrian Safety: Newnan pushing campaign to make streets safer

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The Newnan pedestrian safety brochure lists safety tips for motorists and for pedestrians, as well as some myths and corresponding facts.

By JOHN A. WINTERS john@newnan.com There are complicated mathematical formulas with lots of letters and numbers and division marks and square roots and whatnots to determine what happens when two objects collide. There are even formulas that break it down even more, like when a large moving object hits a small moving one. It's almost impossible to write those formulas in newspaper columns.
Let's just use the simple "bug" hits "windshield" equals ... Not a pretty sight. Even less so when it involves a pedestrian and a vehicle. And that potential is compounded in downtown areas, where there are lots of cars and lots of pedestrians. And lots of debate about who has the right-of-way. Pedestrians have the right-of-way at crosswalks, but they also can cross a street at any location, unless specifically prohibited. However, they lose that right-of-way in that latter situation. It's more a matter of common sense and precaution. A 150-pound individual may have the right-of-way over a 4,000-pound vehicle, but let's remember that whole bug and windshield equation. The city of Newnan has a thriving downtown with lots of vehicles and lots of pedestrians. In an effort to prevent serious problems, the city has been working on an education campaign for both pedestrians and drivers. About 10,000 brochures have been printed -- known as the "Safe Step, City of Newnan Pedestrian Safety Awareness Campaign." The brochure lists safety tips for motorists and for pedestrians, as well as some myths and corresponding facts. Some might be obvious, others not so much. For example, motorists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing at intersections. The key is that a "crosswalk" exists at every intersection, regardless of whether or not it is painted, according to the brochure. There are also some precautionary tips, primarily that just because a pedestrian sees a vehicle, that doesn't mean the driver sees the pedestrian. That's especially true when pedestrians try to cross in the middle of a street and walk between cars. Newnan Police officers are working a more educational approach, and have not issued any citations to either pedestrians or drivers, according to city Police Chief Buster Meadows. "The drivers that we encountered about their yielding to pedestrians were well received," Meadows said. "Some drivers did say that the pedestrians should cross at crosswalks, but understood the reason they were stopped." Some pedestrians take the information well, although some won't use crosswalks as advised. "We encourage the pedestrians to use the crosswalks, which is a lot better, and they should upon approaching the crosswalk press the signal button to activate the safe crossing indicator," the chief said. "Over all I believe the campaign worked and we still have officers go up and try to educate drivers and pedestrians about the right-of-way issues," Meadows added. Copies of the brochure are available at city hall, the police department and the Newnan Carnegie Library. ••• PEDESTRIAN SAFETY MYTHS AND FACTS Following are some myths and facts taken from the “City of Newnan Pedestrian Safety Awareness Campaign” brochure. ••• Myth: A “walk” signal for pedestrians means it is safe to cross. Fact: A “walk” signal means that pedestrians have the right-of-way, but should still wait and search for vehicles before stepping into the street. ••• Myth: A pedestrian is always safe in a crosswalk. Fact: Many pedestrians are in crosswalks when hit by a motor vehicle. Many motorists do not look for pedestrians when approaching a cross walk, especially when preparing to make a turn. A motorist may be looking for a gap in traffic or distracted. ••• Myth: As a pedestrian, if you can see the driver of a motor vehicle, the driver sees you. Fact: Don’t assume that a driver sees you, even though it appears that a driver may be looking at you. Make sure the driver sees you before stepping into a vehicle’s path. ••• Myth: Vehicles are bigger and faster than pedestrians so they always have the right-of-way. Fact: Because a motor vehicle has the potential (due to size and speed) to cause such serious and fatal injuries to a pedestrian, a motorist has a greater responsibility. A motor vehicle must stop for any pedestrian in a crosswalk (marked or unmarked). ••• Myth: Wearing white or bright colored clothing at night makes you visible to drivers. Fact: Regardless of the color of clothing you wear, you as a pedestrian are difficult for a motorist to see at night. The best way to be seen at night is to wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight. ••• Myth: Pedestrians can only cross the street where painted crosswalks exist. Fact: Pedestrians have the right-of-way when crossing at a location where a crosswalk exists (marked or unmarked), but a pedestrian can cross the street at any location, unless specifically prohibited. However, if a pedestrian is crossing at a location where a crosswalk does not exist, the pedestrian has the duty to yield to motor vehicle traffic.


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