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Front Page » April 24, 2012 » Opinion » Pay more attention at crosswalks, watch out for kids in d...
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Pay more attention at crosswalks, watch out for kids in dark clothes- Letters to the Editor

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By James Nelson

Inconsiderate, Reckless, or Just Plain Dumb


Last week I had my second experience of nearly killing a kid in a crosswalk on Main Street in Huntington.  My father often quoted to me, "God watches out for fools and little children." The older I got, the more he began to add, "You're not little children any more." It took a while to figure that one out.

On both my near misses, kids were crossing this busy highway in the dark, wearing dark clothing, arrogantly, or foolishly, playing chicken with traffic. Other cars were coming in the distance with lights shining in my eyes. I could not see the pedestrians at all. With lights shining in my eyes, they were completely invisible. On both instances the kids crossed between me and the car headlights coming in the distance. The interrupted, on-coming headlight is the only thing that alerted me that something was in the road. I only discovered it was a human being after I began braking.

The first occasion occurred just before complete darkness, but all vehicles had their headlights on. I was driving the speed limit in the right-hand lane with a car following me. The very brief interruption of the oncoming headlight inspired a brake tap. I discovered a single young kid marching right out in front of traffic. When I discovered him, I slammed on my brakes and nearly got rear-ended by the car behind me. The kid turned sideways and backed across the highway with his hands out at his sides in a "what are you thinking" gesture. He probably fit in the group between "fools and little children." Lucky for him, God was still watching out for him on both levels.

When I finally started breathing again and got my blood pressure back out of the stroke range, I moved slowly down the highway shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. Then, I was angry. I wanted to go back, shake some sense into his non-functioning brain and haul him home to his parents to hand over a living, breathing kid and explain lessons on wearing reflective or at least light colored clothing, common sense, and courtesy. Better judgment prevailed, and I went home. I had nightmares about running over a kid and killing him.

Last week was nearly a mirror image. It was even the exact same crosswalk. The difference was that it was much later and darker and there were five or six of them, and they were all boys and girls dressed in very dark clothing, not a speck of reflection or white anywhere on them. This time I turned on my interior light and gave them the arms out "what are you thinking" gesture. They were not little children. They were certainly teenagers-probably pre-drivers-license-age. So, if they were not "little children"... they fit in the other category God protects.

I know, as does every licensed driver, that pedestrians have the right of way. These youths may have been lulled into a sense of security with that same knowledge. Additionally, every driver in Huntington just before school, at lunch, or after school has been stopped by the school crossing guard. Thank goodness for school crossing guards. But, that school crossing may also give young people a false sense of security about crossing a busy highway at any time.

I judge myself a safe, careful driver. I have a Commercial Driver's License and am qualified to drive a school bus. I have better than 20/20 corrected eyesight, and I still have excellent hearing. The only wreck I have ever been in while operating a vehicle is getting plowed into by a BYU coed talking on her cell phone. I'm thinking a kid would be pretty safe crossing in front of me in the daylight.

I spent my life working with kids. I cannot imagine living with the idea that I had run over one. Please mothers and dads and young people all over the county teach that using a little courtesy and common sense while crossing a busy street in the dark might save a life, your life. Wait a bit; wear lighter, reflective clothing, traffic will break, and you can cross safely and live to tell about it.

James Nelson


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April 24, 2012
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