Traffic safety is important to every West Virginian. Regardless of whether you are a driver, a passenger, a cyclist, or a pedestrian, laws exists to protect your life and your rights. Most of us area aware of the high profile traffic related safety initiatives in the state such as “Click-It or Ticket” targeting seat belt use and “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” focused on preventing impaired driving. While these are important and effective programs, there are even less obvious efforts and habits that can be undertaken daily to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment.
Pedestrian crosswalks are designed and utilized for two purposes. Both to direct pedestrians to cross the roadway in a particular spot and to notify drivers to be cautious and that they may need to stop. The Elkins City Code (Sec. 19-112) mirrors West Virginia State Code §17C-10-2 in assigning right-of-way depending on the circumstance. In situations where both a traffic signal and a crosswalk indicator are in place and in operation, both parties will be directed how to proceed by the signals. In the absence of any signals or if a signal fails, the code requires that “the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.” However, this does not permit pedestrians to walk or run into the path of a moving vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to safely yield. In addition, when a vehicle is stopped at a marked or unmarked pedestrian crosswalk, the driver of any other vehicle is not permitted to overtake or pass the stopped vehicle.
While pedestrians are required to use the crosswalk in the presence of adjacent intersections at which traffic signals are in operation, they are also strongly encouraged to use them when available nearby. This helps both pedestrians and drivers know what to expect and allows for a smoother interaction between the two. However, it is sometimes necessary to get across a road in the absence of a crosswalk, in which case the burden to yield falls to the pedestrian, not the driver.
Did you know that any person operating a bicycle on a roadway is granted all of the rights, as well as being subject to all the rules, applicable to the driver of a vehicle? If not, you may not be alone in that. It is a common misconception that cyclists should ride on the sidewalk, when in fact this is illegal and dangerous to both the riders and to pedestrians. Cyclists ride with traffic; use hand signals in the absence of electronic ones to turn; yield to pedestrians at crosswalks; and the like. When an adjacent bike lane is available, riders should utilize it, otherwise they should ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when passing, turning left or avoiding some condition or conflict. (See W.Va. Code §17C-11)
This information is meant to enlighten drivers and pedestrians alike of what the rules are. Pedestrians and drivers alike may be fined for a violation of these codes up to $100 plus court costs for a first offense, and even higher for subsequent offenses. But ultimately this notice is meant to remind everyone that slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings is in everyone’s best interest. In order for Elkins to be the livable, accessible city that makes us attractive to residents, tourists, and investors alike, understanding and implementing the use of multiple forms of transportation simultaneously is vital. Beyond that, it’s an excellent example of common courtesy.