As I do most mornings, I drove both my children to their school today. First, we dropped off my daughter at a crowded but surprisingly polite corner where three schools disgorge children daily. The crossing guard is lovely, protective and always waves. One kid down – and I don’t mean literally – so all was well.
Then, we headed back toward Sunset Blvd – a surprisingly long journey for a mere two blocks because there is another vigilant crossing guard and a four way stop which always requires eye contact and negotiation because, honestly, does anyone remember who is supposed to go first at these stops?
Back on the boulevard, I stopped as the light turned to yellow – too many plugged in teens crossing Sunset Blvd on their way to Pali High to take the chance and gun it. As we waited at the red light, across the street, a white pick up truck turning right almost hit a man running with his dog as the man entered the cross walk. The almost-victim stopped, raised his fist to the driver’s window then ran on – an appropriate display of macho rage tempered by rationality.
While it is true that pedestrians do have the right of way in a cross walk, all cars and all of their drivers have blind spots (really, is there a driver amongst us who has not nearly hit someone or a walker amongst us who has not come close to being road kill?).
The California Department of Motor Vehicles even acknowledges this, below.
V C Section 21950 Right of Way at Crosswalks
Right-of-Way at Crosswalks [link http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21950.htm]
- (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
A crosswalk is not a force field; make eye contact with a driver before you enter it. And, by the way, to the lady who was driving the white SUV that almost ran me and my very tired son, who I was carrying, across a nearby street on Tuesday – I accept your apology completely.
Westward on Sunset Blvd I traveled, with the same, now wide-awake kid still to go. I eased into the carpool lane, reminded him to bring home items from his cubby this afternoon (an effort in futility, I trust, but a mom can dream, can’t she?) and headed back toward Sunset Blvd. on my way to our neighborhood Ralphs.
As I pulled into the driveway, a big truck was pulling out. The truck driver suggested I take a left to enter the parking thus going against traffic. Now, parking lots are nerve racking enough (whether a pedestrian or driver) and I’m neurotic enough even when not behind the wheel so this wasn’t going to happen. My point was accentuated when a black pickup truck exited the lot using the lane I’ve been in had I heeded the truck driver’s advice.
I opened my window, leaned out and yelled, “I will back out as soon as I can.” Clearly the perfectly coiffed lady with her two adorable children who was walking behind me didn’t hear me say this because as soon as she passed she yelled helpfully “you’re going to have to back out.” Really? Should I have done this before and ploughed into you or should I do it now and roll over the other crossing parents and children?
Apparently, the truck driver took my caution as incompetence. Now, I agree with my friend who says that, “making fun of Amy’s driving is a sport,” but I can back out of a large driveway easily – as long as there are not people or pets behind me. Nevertheless, the truck driver stopped his engine and headed my way to help me onto the street. Sigh – does the stereotype of a bleached blonde in an SUV run that deep?
I smiled at the well-meaning, stereotype-believing truck driver as he waved his hands assuring me that it was okay to back up now that there were no creatures great or small in my path and was rewarded with an open parking space just mere feet in front of me.
So much for a typical morning drive. Who knows what tomorrow will bring…