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.
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.
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.