Pedestrians, drivers must work together for safety

According to Oklahoma state law, pedestrians who do not use a crosswalk must yield the right of way to vehicles. Pedestrians should always make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

According to Oklahoma state law, pedestrians who do not use a crosswalk must yield the right of way to vehicles. Pedestrians should always make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- The first reported pedestrian fatality occurred in the United Kingdom in 1896.
   Katherine Driscol died as a result of being struck by a vehicle while at the Crystal Palace. The maximum speed of the vehicle that struck her was only 4 mph at the time of impact.
   More recently at Tinker, there has been a sharp rise in pedestrian/vehicle mishaps and near misses in our base parking lots, especially in the main lot of Bldg. 3001.
   Historically, across the base, those figures have remained very low at one or two mishaps annually. But even that low number is way too high when we consider the possible outcomes. Recently, there was one pedestrian death as a result of one of these mishaps.
   Annually in the U.S., approximately 5,000 pedestrians are killed by automobiles and another 61,000 are injured. According to NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, more than 4,700 people were killed in pedestrian and motor vehicle mishaps in 2006 -- that's 13 people every day of the year, which is an awful toll.
   Pedestrian deaths account for approximately 12 percent of all motor vehicle fatality statistics. Some of those occur in parking lots. Parking lot accidents are predictable because people do unexpected and destructive things with their cars: a foot can slip off a clutch, vehicles slip into gear and overshoot parking places and drivers hit the gas when they are trying to hit the brake.
   Did you know the speed limit in base parking lots is 5 mph? Some drivers on base are either unaware of the limit or insensitive to others and speed recklessly through the lots.
   Just as often, however, some pedestrians automatically think they have the right of way simply because they are on foot. They don't use crosswalks -- even when readily available -- and expect approaching vehicles to stop for them while they cross.
   Oklahoma state law requires pedestrians not using a crosswalk to yield the right of way to vehicles. The warning is also very clearly stated in Air Force Joint Manual 24-306, Chapter 7 (Manual for the Wheeled Vehicle Driver), "When you cross a street, cross at an intersection or crosswalk if one is available." -- Tinker has many crosswalks available.
   The following advice should help prevent these mishaps and near misses:
   Pedestrians should:
   · Walk defensively in parking lots. Expect the unexpected. Don't let vehicles surprise you -- even if a motorist is speeding in the parking lot.
   · Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of or behind them.
   · Avoid sudden, dangerous moves like sprinting across traffic, which could surprise drivers.
   · Don't step into the traffic lanes from between parked cars.
   · Watch closely for vehicles that are turning or backing up.
   · While walking in the parking lot, do not block your view of traffic with packages, umbrellas or other objects.
   Following these tips as a pedestrian will improve your chances of safely walking your estimated lifetime average of 75,000 miles.
   Drivers should:
   · Remember, the speed limit in all Tinker parking lots is 5 mph unless otherwise posted.
   · Always be aware of your surroundings while traveling in the parking lots. Be on the lookout for pedestrians while you're moving and while stopped. 
   · After stopping, ensure that all is clear before you move the vehicle again.
   · Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks.
   · Be sensitive and courteous to others.
   The bottom line for everyone is to see and be seen. We must emphasize that as a pedestrian in a vehicle parking lot, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety. Vehicle operators must follow the set rules also, but the ultimate responsibility to remain injury-free rests with you, the pedestrian.