Studies have shown that getting behind the wheel causes significant transformations in people. Timid people become angrier, stoic people lose patience much easier and, for already angry and impatient people, those existing qualities are amplified. In general, there’s something about being in control of a one-ton hurtling mass of metal that just makes people feel a tad invincible.
We have known about the dangers of vehicular travel for a long time. Manufacturers have addressed an increased public awareness of the need for more safety on the roads by designing better car frames, better seatbelts, better airbags, better headlights and better brakes.
But how do you improve the recklessness of human decisions?
The short answer is – until decades or centuries from now when our roads and highways are 100 percent automated, eliminating human error and intuition from the equation and thus eliminating accidents entirely – you can’t. Human beings are fallible creatures, and these faults are amplified when put in control of such powerful machines.
What can be done, however, is what the Warwick Police Department is trying to do right now throughout the coming months. They have launched the second year of their “Walk Wise Warwick” program, in which plain-clothes police officers walk back and forth on a busy crosswalk for a couple hours and see how many motorists show a blatant disregard for the safety of crossing pedestrians.
If a motorist speeds up to get through a crosswalk while the officer is in the crossing, or gives no more than an inch of space between the pedestrian crossing and accelerating once again, officers ahead of the crosswalk will immediately pull that driver over and give them what they need most – a healthy dose of perspective on what an unnecessarily dangerous and reckless action they just performed, before sending them on their way.
These kinds of campaigns deliver exactly the dose of medicine that is needed for people who, for some reason, find it intolerable to wait for literally less than 30 seconds to allow a defenseless pedestrian to cross the street in front of them during their commute.
Being pulled over by an officer provides, hopefully, a wakeup call that is equal parts education and shaming, but it also extends an olive branch of respect because police will not file citations during these campaigns for the very crosswalk violations they are seeking to reduce (unless other violations like distracted driving, outstanding warrants or excessive speeding occurs).
There have already been four pedestrian accidents in Warwick this year, and three of them have been fatal. One of those fatalities happened at a crosswalk, and recently a father was just hospitalized while he was utilizing a crosswalk properly as well.
There is no excuses to be made – people must exercise more caution around pedestrian crosswalks. Not only is it the right thing to do for public safety, it is the law. Exercising disregard for crossing pedestrians is a lose-lose situation. At best, you needlessly endanger the life of an innocent person. At the worst, you ruin multiple lives, including your own, because you were too selfish and impatient to yield for a few seconds.
Nobody’s life is worth less than your need to get somewhere a minute quicker.