Sep 062010
Authors: Molly Ungerer

I understand that the law says that pedestrians have the right of way. The incoming traffic has the right to stop for them or to smash into them, severely injuring and possibly terminating the walkers all together.

This would be the end of you, or at least the end of properly-functioning you.

According to the PEDSAFE crash statistics, 4,749 pedestrians were killed in 2003. Killed. Not just hospitalized or nudged by the hood of an oncoming car but killed.

Pedestrians do have the right of way, but please just make sure to confirm that the cars have the intention of stopping for you before waltzing out in front of them.

Ignorance is key. I’ve been walking with people before who honestly don’t even glance down the street to see if a car is heading our way. Their reasoning is always: “We have the right of way.”

Right. And if they choose not to stop, you lose. People have actually said, “Well, they get to pay for my hospital bill, so really, they lose.”

But, this is only partially true. If this ingenious pedestrian is lucky enough to even end up in the intensive care unit rather than in their grave, I wouldn’t say that a stay in the hospital is necessarily a win even if it’s out of someone else’s checkbook.

This is just a personal preference, but I’ve never enjoyed any kind of trip to the hospital. It makes me uncomfortable, and I’ve never constructed a fun-loving memory that has come from a visit to the hospital. If I were ever the stricken pedestrian who ended up in the hospital, I wouldn’t exactly think of it as a perk just because the driver who collided with me had to pay the bill.

“Well, Ms. Ungerer, the bad news is you’re paralyzed, but on the bright side, someone else has this fee covered. And trust me, this bill is gonna be a doozie,” the doc says as he nudges me with his elbow. I’d just prefer to avoid the hospital at all costs.

We were raised to watch out for these “run-ins.” (Pun is completely intended.)

Remember when you were younger and as you ran out the front door to go play with the neighborhood kids, your parents always yelled something along the lines of “look both ways!”

Believe it or not, usually they weren’t just saying this to hear themselves talk. They were probably afraid you would turn into one of those pedestrians who would leisurely stroll out in front of oncoming traffic only with the reasoning that you have the right of way to protect you.

Honestly, in my house, this phrase seemed as habitual as when my parents said things like, “How was your day? Is your homework finished? Don’t bite anybody. Molly, not all of your friends appreciate being tied to a sled and shoved down the stairs. We love you. What time will you be home?”

Most of the time the only reason I really did look both ways was strictly because I never knew if my parents were watching from our living room window to actually make sure that I looked both ways at the edge of our driveway.

In more recent years, I’ve gotten myself into the habit of actually making sure that the cars plan on stopping even when crossing at a crosswalk with stop signs or traffic lights.

If they run the light, they get a ticket. If you step in front of their car, your family gets the news that you won’t be home that night.

We have all seen the cars (or have been the driver of those cars) that blow right through stop signs and traffic lights without any hesitation. I never know if it’s because they don’t see the sign or just don’t care, but regardless of their reason for neglecting the signs, the car will win.

I’m not saying to completely avoid crosswalks or just crossing streets altogether, I’m just suggesting that you avoid being one of those self-righteous pedestrians who’s too stubborn to acknowledge the oncoming cars that weigh at least 20 times their weight and ends up in the hospital or expired and stagnant prematurely.

Molly Ungerer is a sophomore journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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