A 14-year-old girl was struck by a car on Monday as she crossed the street at the intersection of Main and Shore streets. The driver of the car, a 67-year-old woman, was cited for a crosswalk violation.

The police did not provide the specific circumstances of the accident, so it is impossible to know the extent that the driver was at fault. Was the driver paying no attention? Did the girl dart out into the street? Or was it something in between? We don’t know.

But the driver was at fault regardless. The teenager was on a crosswalk, and that was that.

Pedestrians have the right of way on streets, regardless of whether there is a crosswalk. But drivers are required to pay special attention and stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.

That doesn’t mean, though, that crosswalks provide any special protections. Pedestrians still must exercise caution.

Nonetheless, we have seen people walk onto crosswalks with hardly a look in either direction. One summer we saw a family with a baby carriage walk out from behind a car into a crosswalk. They were among the many we have seen walk out without paying much attention.

Even a driver paying attention can have difficulty under those circumstances. A car traveling 20 miles per hour covers 29 feet each second. Twenty miles per hour is not fast, but a car still covers a lot of ground in a short time. And two seconds on a busy street with a lot of distractions is a short window.

Former Police Chief Paulino Rodriques did the town a wonderful service years ago by heavily promoting the idea that pedestrians come first. It might not hurt now to stress that safety is a shared experience, and pedestrians must also take care.

(1) comment


While I fully agree that safety is a shared responsibility, given that we really don't know what happened here, the tone is inappropriately pedestrian-blaming. As a resident of Falmouth village and a daily pedestrian in town, I have seen many more vehicles driving though crosswalks without a look to either side than I have pedestrians walking out without looking. This is why I've taught my kids to wait and make sure drivers have stopped before they cross, even though the drivers are "supposed" to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. While we are talking about shared responsibility, perhaps we could note that drivers in town should be expecting pedestrians and driving with caution, especially during winter when darkness comes early.

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