As I came around a curve in the road the other day, a crosswalk popped up just as the road straightened out. I hit some old guy walking across the street at turtle speed! NO! That’s not true! I was the one crossing the street (at snail speed) and some old guy came around a curve in his SUV and ran me down. That’s not true either.
It didn’t happen! Not to me anyway. But it does happen, all the time. Often at a corner, because a driver’s view is obstructed by one of the pillars, those wide padded supports on each side of the windshield that hold up the roof. They are excessively wide, especially in SUVs. So wide, that they block objects and people from a driver’s view.
A pedestrian crossing the street becomes invisible, depending on the angle between the driver’s eyes and the pedestrian’s location. Bulky side view mirrors make the blind spot even bigger. They have evolved into quite massive structures, especially when you consider their main function is to hold up a mirror. They do more than that now; they allow us to adjust the angle with the touch of a button, remove frost and in some cars, wipe away the raindrops. Making them larger and larger. It’s all-good when you’re on the inside the car, not so hot if you are walking or riding a bicycle and move into an ever-increasing blind spot.
Bad driving habits make matters worse. Many drivers look left before turning “right on red” and don’t come to a stop. And, don’t see someone stepping off the curb into the crosswalk on the right. That’s why crossing at intersections has become dangerous, not to mention the people who text while driving and can hit you from any angle. We’ve been taught to cross the street at the crosswalk, which is usually at the corner. You can get a ticket for jaywalking if you don’t. Get caught in New York City, and it will cost you $250. Crossing away from an intersection is safer; the odds of making it to the other side are much higher, as long as you do what you were taught when you were five years old, and look both ways before stepping off the curb.
Car safety for drivers and passengers has improved immensely over the past 20 years. Pedestrian and bicycle safety, on the other hand, has declined. Partially due to the obesity of the windshield pillars. It’s like automobiles have glaucoma; the view out the windshield gets narrower and narrower. It doesn’t have to be this way. Cars in the 1950’s sported wrap around, panoramic windshields, a concept introduced to the marketplace with the 1953 Cadillac Eldorado and the Oldsmobile Fiesta. All cars had them eventually, creating a safe world for pedestrians.
This is why old coots like me are suspicious when modern day innovative changes are announced. They are often not for the better. Pedestrian deaths due to vehicle crashes increased by 32% over the last ten years. In 2018 they totaled 6,283 and bicycle fatalities came in at an astounding 857. If you’ve got wide pillars on your car, move your head from front to back at an intersection, like a chicken pecking at the ground; it will help you see around the pillar. And, look both ways to see what you’re missing – ME! – The invisible “chicken” trying to cross the street alive to see what’s on the other side.
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