|Saturday, 5 July 2003|
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Saving lives at pedestrian crossings
Highway and road indiscipline has reached such dangerous proportions today that pedestrian crossings could no longer be considered safe by non-motorists. To begin with, most pedestrian crossings are not visible to the naked eye. In most cases, the once familiar yellow markings have all suffered effacement. How could the movements of pedestrians be facilitated, then, on our busy highways? Are they to be at the mercy of the tyrannical diktat of errant motorists?
We are led to these reflections by a timely letter to the Editor on these issues which we highlighted yesterday and the increasing dangers faced by pedestrians on our roads. Two chilling road disasters yesterday underscore these points.
Today, many motorists seem to be possessed by a devil may care attitude. Despite the mounting hazards posed by spreading traffic congestion, many a vehicle is being driven with a very dangerous nonchalance with hardly a thought being spared for precious human lives. While many of these social attitudes have their roots in growing inhumanity, insensitivity and callousness in the body-politic, the non-adoption of simple, practical, physical safeguards against these hazards, tends to aggravate the problems on our highways.
As pointed out by our letter writer yesterday, adequate and effective road signs and speed breakers, such as humps, could force motorists to halt at pedestrian crossings.
However, it should be pointed out rightaway that a motorist has no "right of way" at a pedestrian crossing. Every motorist is duty-bound to give way to a pedestrian at such crossings, whether he or she likes it or not. In other words, the law is that the motorist should halt at a pedestrian crossing, if there are pedestrians waiting to cross over, and allow the latter to proceed to the other side of the road. It goes without saying that this golden rule is observed more in the breach by many of our motorists.
In fact, the chances are that the more law-abiding motorists may be exposing pedestrians to grave dangers these days by halting at crossings and allowing pedestrians to cross over because other motorists driving alongside him or behind him may be disinclined to do so, thus crashing into the crossing pedestrians. This is a deeply disturbing irony that dare-devil drivers force on us. While weeding out such errant motorists from our highways is a pressing priority, this couldn't be achieved in the short-term.
To begin with, incompetent persons shouldn't be provided driving licences but the reforms needed to effect this have been discussed exhaustively. Suffice it to know, however, that not all drivers over 60 years of age are incompetent to handle vehicles. Incompetence is not only a question of age in this context.
However, it is vitally important that pedestrian crossings are freshly marked consistently. Besides, speed breakers need to be used at such crossings to slow down reckless drivers and clear road signs used to indicate crossing points.
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