Our Opinion: Pedestrians lose conflicts with cars

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It takes two parties to have a car-pedestrian accident, but only one of the two parties is sure to suffer physically for it. That makes it incumbent upon pedestrians to protect their safety. Sadly, not enough pedestrians are.

According to the Pittsfield Police Department, 21 pedestrians have been hit by cars in 2019, a 75 percent increase over the same period last year (Eagle, June 19). While Sgt. Marc Maddalena of the Police Department's traffic unit emphasized to The Eagle that both drivers and pedestrians have responsibility to exercise caution he made it clear that pedestrians are at fault more often than not. A little time spent observing pedestrian behavior on North Street and side streets will confirm this, as The Eagle has noted several times in recent years.

Pedestrians routinely walk into crosswalks, often with heads down, in the apparent assumption that they automatically have the right of way. That is not the case if there is a traffic light at the intersection and an electronic red hand is telling pedestrians that they should stay put. Even if the pedestrian does have the right of way there is no satisfaction in being in the right if walking without caution results in being hit by a car and suffering crippling injuries. Cars in motion are subject to the laws of physics and drivers must be given time to slow down by pedestrians.

Crosswalk etiquette aside, Pittsfield has a problem with jaywalkers who ignore all of the rules for pedestrians in walking through traffic. This is complicated further according to Sgt. Maddalena by pedestrians who are WUI — walking under the influence of intoxicants.

Car-pedestrian accidents are of course not limited to Pittsfield. A pedestrian suffered serious injuries while in a crosswalk on Main Street in Dalton across from the Post Office, a section of the road where traffic tends to move quickly. Residents of the nearby River Run Apartments are lobbying for a traffic light at the intersection of Main Street, which is a state road, and River Street. Downtown Lee, with its many crosswalks and heavy traffic, has seen its share of accidents. That area becomes more congested during the summer, which is also the case for downtown Stockbridge in front of the Red Lion Inn, where a troublesome intersection whose issues have gone unresolved is about to get an influx of traffic. Tourists coming from Tanglewood or the theater who are staying at the Inn or dining downtown frequently cross the road at night, sometimes, but not always, on the crosswalks.

There is no simple solution to any of these and other Berkshire crosswalk issues. While we encourage Sgt. Maddalena's unit to hand out as many tickets as possible to jaywalkers and violators of crosswalk rules, the best way to reduce car-pedestrian accidents, as the sergeant said, is for drivers and pedestrians to exercise caution. Pedestrians must take it upon themselves to know and follow the crosswalk rules. It's their lives and health that are at stake.

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