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Safety officials: Crosswalks don’t necessarily mean pedestrians are free to cross

Safety officials: Crosswalks don’t necessarily mean pedestrians are free to cross

Story by Eric Pilgrim on 08/22/2019

You walk up to a crosswalk with warning lights, you hit the button, the warning lights start flashing do you cross the street?

Not necessarily, say officials at the Fort Knox Safety Office.

Arguably some of the most visible crosswalks at Fort Knox, the three at Spearhead Division Avenue behind Buildings 1109 and 1110 are clearly painted and complemented with large flashing lights and signs alerting motorists to their presence. During the start and end of any given workday, it is common to see employees of those buildings using the crosswalks.

Joe Colson, the safety officer for Fort Knox Safety, said the crosswalks have become dangerous areas to cross, depending on what pedestrians think about their rights to cross the street.

“What’s happening is, individuals are walking up to these lights and when they get there, they don’t stop,” said Colson. “I’ve witnessed a number of individuals that don’t even hit the light; they’ll just walk out in the street like they have the right of way.”

The road is known as a major vein that connects Chaffee Gate to U.S. Army Human Resources Command and all points in between. This makes the road a particularly busy one for vehicle travel, and problematic for pedestrians looking to cross the road.

Colson said it’s not the only problematic crosswalk, however.

“If you come up to any crosswalk, you do not necessarily have the right of way right away,” said Colson.

Kentucky’s laws support the right-of-way of pedestrians in crosswalks on minor roads or running parallel with a road, and the laws also emphasize to motorists to be on the lookout for pedestrians.

At least 5,000 pedestrians are killed in the United States every year by motorists, according to the National Highway Administration. Roughly about 85,000 more are injured. Because of this, Colson warns pedestrians not to assume motorists see them entering a crosswalk.

Colson said some pedestrians have voiced concerns in the past about pedestrian crossing lights at intersections on post because of the length of time it takes for lights for change.

“The traffic lights have to go through an entire cycle before the hand turns white to signal that you are safe to cross the street,” said Colson. “As a result, pedestrians could be standing at an intersection for a minimum of three minutes waiting for the lights.

“Folks have issues, they have concerns that the lights are not always working.”

Because of extended wait times and the possibility of encountering distracted drivers, Colson is asking pedestrians to exercise patience and caution when crossing streets, wherever they are.

Colson points to the three or four incidents at Fort Knox in the last 15 months where pedestrians were struck by motorists as reason enough for pedestrians to heed his advice.

“Don’t just assume you can go,” said Colson. “You should stop and look. Make eye contact with motorists prior to crossing, prior to even stepping into the crosswalk. If we can get more people to do that, we’ll have less incidents.”

Colson also warns motorists to be more cognizant of pedestrians when they drive around post, especially at intersections that cross walking paths.

“Those amber lights are warning lights. They do not give you the green light to step out onto a crosswalk; they are cautionary,” said Colson. “Unless you make eye contact with a motorist, you do not have the right of way.”

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