There Oughta Be a Law!

On a recent afternoon, soon after school had let out for the day, I was driving past Watchung Plaza and saw a woman with a baby stroller waiting at a crosswalk.  I stopped for her, but the cars on the opposite side kept going by.  The driver in the car behind me started honking, and then she started inching her car around mine – on the left side.

Cute, right?

Apparently, this person was in too much of  a hurry to wait thirty seconds to obey the law, or – more importantly – be neighborly.  Upon turning to see if someone was bleeding from head trauma in the car (because that would explain why they were in such a hurry), I was greeted by the middle finger of the car’s passenger.

Wow.

This guy didn’t even have the poor excuse of being 15 years old.  This was a middle-age man (whatever that means) sticking his middle finger up at someone who had stopped her car to let another woman walk a baby safely across Watchung Avenue.

Being me, I had to lower my window and yell, “There’s a law about stopping for pedestrians in this state!”  Clever, right?  I was so intimidating that he rolled up his window right quick.  (I think it was actually his female driving companion who told him to roll it up when she saw the crossing guard approaching.)  The woman and stroller made it across safely, and I (slowly and passive-aggressively) moved on to my destination.  And that was that.

Except it wasn’t.  And it isn’t.

Driving and stopping for pedestrians needs to be taken seriously.  Being in control of a ton or two of metal, plastic and rubber is a responsibility, not just a privilege.  And that goes double in an area with pedestrians.  No matter who has the right of way, 2500 pounds of car needs to take the high road. (Pun intended.)  Unfortunately, far too many people use their cars to force pedestrians to wait for them, instead of the other way around.  Crossing at a crosswalk on Grove Street is nearly impossible unless a pedestrian decides to risk placing his entire self into the street – like the Russian roulette of the Hokey Pokey.

Now, I get it.  Pedestrians can be aggravating.  People dash across to get to the train, the post office, and who knows what.  Others take languid, slow steps to cross the street.  Sometimes wanna-be pedestrians stand in a crosswalk chatting on a cell phone, oblivious that someone is waiting for them to cross.  And then there are the people who stand at the crosswalk while waiting for a bus.  They aren’t technically pedestrians, but it does confuse matters if drivers don’t know if someone wants to cross or if they are waiting for Decamp to arrive.  Still, none of those people – no matter how robust – would do as much damage to a car as a car would do to them.

So, please people, after you’ve slowed down around town (because we all need to do that more), just stop when you see someone waiting to cross the road.  It won’t take more than a minute or two out of your day. And if you need more motivation,  it’s the law.

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
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17 Responses to There Oughta Be a Law!

  1. commutefromhell says:

    Thank you!! So many of my posts are about this very problem! Bloomfield and Montclair should be more pedestrian-friendly towns! It’s such a pet peeve of mine when I try to cross a driveway or a street and the driver pulls up as I’m crossing or about to cross and they give you a dirty look as you’re walking. As if the 4 seconds it takes you to cross will really affect their ability to get where they’re going! Or better yet, they pretend to not see you there and cut in front of you and you end up having to go around THEM!

    It’s different in the city though. I feel like pedestrians get a little more respect there. Maybe because there’s more of them it’s harder for a driver to get pisses off at a horde of people crossing the street. I don’t know. But all I know is that in Jersey, we don’t get no respect!

    • Thanks for the link-love! I often feel like it’s the pedestrians in Manhattan (and even in the boroughs sometimes) who are more rude than drivers. It has to do with numbers and critical mass. Still, like I said, a pedestrian running into a car isn’t going to do the kind of damage the opposite scenario would.

  2. Pingback: Empathy | From Here to New Jersey

  3. I do agree with this post, and I abide by the law when driving. The thing that drives me crazy though is, in town like Hoboken where I live, pedestrians don’t stop at the crosswalk and continue on. Most people don’t lose a stride and walk right out and expect the drivers to have esp perhaps. When I was a kid, my parents taught me, stop at the corner, look both ways, and if it’s safe cross the street. I always stop at the corner to this day because I don’t take it for granted that the car half a block away will stop or even have seen me walking before I arrived at the corner. I am amazed at the amount of cars that whiz by while I stand there waiting to cross… I don’t appreciate the dirty looks I get as a driver from people who don’t stop at the corner, walk out between cars, and commit all other sorts of pedestrian misdemeanors… I do support the law, but it goes both ways. Don’t expect someone else to be watching out for your safety if your walking, biking, driving, skateboarding, etc… Just be alert…

    • Absolutely. It’s everyone’s responsibility to be alert and follow the “rules” – so to speak. I never cross without looking for cars making right on red or just spacing out, even when I have the light.

  4. I have been shamed in the past for being a bad driver. My only solution is to change my routes and simply be better next time.

    • We’ve all been there. I’ve had to stop short and do the “Oopsie!” palm gesture and face several times. Frankly, I don’t think it’s *bad* driving in many cases as much as *tired* or *egotistical* or *spacecase* driving. And don’t get me started on the phones. But be apologetic or remorseful. In the case of what got me going, it was just “my time is more important than anyone else’s” – which gets me every time. That and the finger. :)

      Thank you for stopping in!

  5. More and more I signal and pull over to let the Montclair tailgaters pass; it’s a change from years earlier when a couple illegally passed me on the left (and one notable right-hand passer; I kid you not.) and I confronted the speeder/tailgater/finger giver at their driver’s side window at the red light they had to stop at right after they sped by me. Those were the days when I was faster out of my car and quicker to anger. Funny how they wouldn’t put their windows down to talk with me.
    Watching pedestrians cross in our town scares me. Flat out scares me.

  6. Absolutely charming behavior. I had a similar incident on Claremont Ave. I stopped to let a teenager cross….poor guy looked like he’d been waiting for hours. I was then overtaken by a woman in a minivan who honked me and nearly killed the kid…I HATE NJ at times.

    • It’s not *just* New Jersey – although as bad as New England drivers can be, they seem to be more apt to stop for pedestrians. Perhaps here it’s because we have the rushrushrush of Manhattan mingling with the relative calm of the suburbs. That’s “Where the Suburb Meets the City” for you!

  7. Watchung Plaza is such a nightmare for pedestrians AND drivers. Something really needs to be done about it. But until then, we should all realize it’s a nightmare and slow down and chill out to make sure everyone is safe.

    Thaks for. Grea post! #CommentDay

    • I agree. That “S” turn onto Park from…Park is confusing and scary. Considering all the train and bus rushing people, maybe a four-way STOP is in order? Wanna run for council with me on that platform? :)

  8. My elderly friend in Boston used to have the most terrible time crossing the street – never made it across before the light changed, and the cars would always go the second the light was green and be so rude to his half-way-across-the-street-self.

    Believe it or not, it was so bad using the crosswalk outside his building that I wrote a letter asking for the light to be extended so that he and similar aged folks could make it across, and the town actgually approved the longer time.

    Anyway, all that is just to say, yes we should all be nice to pedestrians crossing the street.

    • Good for you. That’s being a true friend! Those quick crossing lights are scary, even now that they have the count-down lights in some places. Before kids I was a lot more daring with crossing when the orange hand was flashing. Now, not so much.

  9. This totally drives me crazy, and I get NUTS when drivers blow thru a pedestrian walkway and there’s a cop watching it happen! I don’t think most people realize there is a law, but if the local police actually enforced the law, like maybe spend a few days giving out tickets in a high traffic-ed area, maybe people would start to learn. One NJ town that does this well is Ridgewood – you step out into the street and those cars will slam on their breaks….other towns need to follow their lead, especially those that want to encourage people to patronize local businesses. I won’t take my kids to walk around in downtown Westwood b/c the drivers there don’t stop at all. I can’t and won’t risk my kidlets getting hurt!

    • It also takes a driving culture of following the speed limit. There have been times I have not stopped because someone is tailgating my pipe (literal, not figurative) – and I’m not giving my kids whiplash to stop, you know? It’s actually gotten me to drive under the speed limit in a few places where I know peds are more common.

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