From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 43 - 6/22/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Road Courtesy

When I first came to Sublette County long ago, one of the most impressive things was how cars and trucks actually stopped for you when you wanted to walk across the street. This quiet display of outright courtesy convinced me I had arrived in a special place. Courtesy, however, appears to be dying.

Let's straighten out some confusion no doubt lingering from last week's news story about the car vs. pedestrians accident that occurred, ironically enough, right outside the Pinedale Town Hall. Break out your copy of the Wyoming statutes and follow along mostly in 31-5-602 and 31-5-603. First off, it does not matter whether crosswalks are painted on the street. If it is painted, it's known as a marked crosswalk. If it is not painted, it's just called a crosswalk. The Town of Pinedale confuses this issue when it paints just one crosswalk across Pine Street at most intersections. This leads people to think pedestrians must cross in the paint. They do not. Pedestrians get crosswalk protection at intersections whether the lines are painted or not.

The statutes continue: a driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way by slowing down or stopping if need be, to yield to any pedestrian within or entering a crosswalk at either edge of the roadway. Sounds simple enough, eh?

And because there are two sides to every social contract: no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to contribute an immediate hazard. That makes sense. It's simple physics. Don't leap out in front of moving two-ton hunks of metal and hope they will stop for your frail human body.

Problems arise in this otherwise clear-cut system in two areas: jaywalkers and bad drivers. Jaywalkers disrupt things by crossing the street at places other than intersections. A standard example is parking your car on Pine Street in the middle of the block, exiting the driver's door, and walking directly across the street.

The other area of concern is inattentive and downright hostile drivers. Many, many times I have tried to get across Pine Street in a crosswalk only to be left standing near the curb as driver after driver zooms by without even a hint of slowing down. Sometimes I can feel the driver's anger radiating from the car. The driver's thinking must be something like: how dare that pedestrian try to cross my street when I, a driver, am in a hurry to get home and relax (or to work or to wherever).

Fan the flame of this anger just a little, and you get road rage. Someone cut you off in traffic? Shoot them dead! This actually happens in desolate places like Los Angeles where courtesy is considered a sign of weakness.

So what is the solution to this? 1) The one offered by law enforcement is for people to anonymously report drivers' failures to stop for pedestrians. That seems ineffective for a variety of reasons too numerous and too obvious to go into. 2) Station a police officer at each intersection? That appears equally fraught with shortcomings though an officer in the vicinity of the Pinedale post office for an hour a day, mid-morning and again in the evening, might do wonders. 3) More signs? There are enough signs. One faces each direction at each intersection. 4) Appoint a Town Marshall and give that person a clipboard and a whistle? Maybe. 5) Traffic control devices, i.e. stoplights? Yikes, no way.

Or we can decide not to depend on government to solve our problems. We can simply slow down and be more courteous to each other. I know this will sound like a radical idea to some, but I think it will work. Let's try it.

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The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul