The Mast-Head: Crossing Danger

Crosswalks can be dangerous, particularly at night

I was driving though Bridgehampton the other day and passed the place on Montauk Highway where a vehicle struck Anna Pump as she tried to cross the road. Ms. Pump, who died of her injuries at Southampton Hospital later that day, had been in a crosswalk.

Crosswalks can be dangerous, particularly at night and at this time of the year when night comes before the close of the business day. This is why the Town of Southampton is creating an illuminated, flashing crossing near the Hampton Library like those already in place in East Hampton Village. But even those are not without risks. 

At about dusk on Sunday, as I was driving westward in the left of two lanes on Main Street in my pickup truck, I slowed for two people approaching in the crosswalk from the other side of the street. I could not tell if they were together or not, as one was a step or two behind the other. What was obvious though was that it was, for them, a risky moment; they had not pushed the button to trigger the crosswalk’s blinking lights, and they were both wearing dark clothes.

I looked to my right side-view mirror; a sport utility vehicle was coming up fast, apparently oblivious to the fact that there was a crosswalk ahead. Not knowing what else to do, I lightly beeped the horn several times in rapid succession and then shifted my truck back and forth into the right lane.

The pedestrians made it across the street okay. I was unable to tell if the S.U.V. driver had understood what was going on or thought I was just another nut on the road. Bridgehampton’s new lighted crosswalk will turn on when someone steps into the road rather than relying on a button. This might help, but the trend is not good for people on foot. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rate of pedestrian deaths as a total of all fatalities in the United States has been increasing over the last decade at a time when the annual rate of road deaths over all has been falling sharply. 

The agency also issues pointers about crossing streets. They include this basic advice: Never assume that a driver has seen you.