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I was Jaywalking When It Hit Me

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On: Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 12:03PM | By: Karen Cook

I was Jaywalking When It Hit Me

Way back in the 1970s when I was a youngster trying to make sense of the world I heard the term “jaywalking”. This was the decade of “streaking” and I’d also heard the phrase “naked as a jaybird”, so naturally I thought jaywalking was walking around naked. It seemed to be an unwise thing to do in traffic and thus illegal. It all made sense.

I’m not sure how old I was when I understood the word properly but I don’t think everyone has figured it out. Crosswalks are at every intersection and are to be used by pedestrians crossing the street. People who are walking around without the protection of a vehicle are called “pedestrians” and should never be found on the road anywhere other than in a crosswalk. These “safe areas” are marked with white lines either striped on the pavement or crossing from one side to the other. To revert to childhood terminology this is “base” and you should not be “tagged” here.

It’s all very simple and straightforward. Unfortunately walkers and riders alike have trouble with this rule. Some intersections have lighted signs which can be triggered by a person waiting to cross either by a push button or an electronic sensor. Crossing should be done only when the sign says “WALK” which is white. If you see an orange hand it means “DON’T CROSS. YOU’LL GET SMOOSHED.” For drivers, none of this affects you. It doesn’t matter what the signs are indicating. If there is a human being in the road anywhere at any time, legally or illegally, STOP!

One place I have found where this is all taken VERY seriously is Salem, Massachusetts. I went on vacation there and found to my surprise that while they have crosswalks, motorists are terribly vigilant about anyone trying to cross the street. And it’s everyone, not just the friendly ones. If you so much as step a toe off the sidewalk there, traffic in all directions and lanes comes to an immediate and total stop. I have to admit that I stepped off the sidewalk a few times after I discovered this just to test it. (My apologies to the drivers I halted without any intention to cross the street.) I know in Florida we tend to get a little frustrated with “snow bird” drivers, but this is one situation where we would be smart to take a page from their book. Oh, and it’s still not a good idea to cross the street naked. Just so you know.

Note: A pedestrian is killed every 31/2 minutes in the U.S.

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