By Kelsey Boyle | firstname.lastname@example.org
I experience the frustration of waiting for speeding vehicles to come to a stop for me in a designated pedestrian crosswalk on a weekly basis. It doesn’t matter if I have only a skateboard in my hand, or a bicycle on my left and my rabid pit-boxer mix leashed to the right. Certainly, I am not the only beachgoer who waits anxiously with arms full as cars hastily speed by on A1A in St. Augustine Beach.
Or any pedestrian crosswalk, for that matter.
I am, probably, the only beachgoer who uses the orange flags that the city has positioned along the beach, with such fervor and excitement. If I have a free hand, it goes immediately for the little dowel rod attached to the flag, and that sucker is in mid air, and I am waving it vigorously, like you would if it was an American flag and the president was passing by in a parade. Sometimes I’ll make figure 8s. I almost always embarrass my husband, but I make sure the cars see that orange flag. Still, sometimes they don’t.
I will never forget the time I was walking across the road to the beach, this time sans monster puppy. I grabbed the flag, walked across the street, and a woman in a red sedan continued to drive straight at me, forcing me to stop in the middle of A1A, so close to her vehicle that I could have poked her in the eye if the window was open. Lucky for her it was not.
My story compares nothing to that of St. Augustine High School student Tara Greene. On July 16, 2011, Tara was walking across A1A by Sunset Grille on St. Augustine Beach after dark, and was struck by an irresponsible driver. The man, wearing sunglasses at night, hit Tara in the middle of the road, sending her to the hospital for a broken foot and arm. The man who hit her received no citation, and police were apparently unable to prove if alcohol was related.
According to the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 4,280 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2010. This number is astonishing, and Florida leads the nation in pedestrian fatalities. In addition to the 70,000 pedestrian injuries nationwide, the NHTSA estimates “a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in a traffic crash” in 2010.
In St. Augustine if you drive through a cross walk that has pedestrians waiting at it, you may receive a $166 ticket and three points on your license. Arguably, the ticket fails to compare to the cost of a life.
Admittedly, I have probably sped down your street before. During my freshman year of college, I zoomed around a corner in the parking garage downtown and hit the bumper of a tourist’s stopped rental car; luckily it wasn’t someone’s kid. I’ve also been driving on A1A myself and realized too late that there is a family holding hands waiting to cross the road, and I was the jerk that didn’t stop. I’ve also seen the family and stopped for them, while oncoming traffic ignored and kept speeding through the crosswalk. It is sickening to witness people’s tunnel vision and blatant disregard for other people.
One time a man in a big truck made eye contact with me as he was driving past me on his cell phone. As I stood, wielding the flag on his side of the road, he saw me and kept going. It made me wonder, do people think I’m waving the flag for a car wash? Do I look like I’m directing traffic? Isn’t orange the universal color for caution? Construction zones, inmates’ outfits, Carrot Top, all these things scream, “Watch out!”
All that being said, could you imagine actually hitting somebody? It has to be one of the scariest things in the world, and that is why, out of respect to humanity, we have certain obligations. If we can all drive a bit more responsibly the city won’t have to install stoplights along St. Augustine beach. The area is known for its quaintness, which I believe, is highlighted by its single stoplight at A Street. To keep this simplicity, people have to start being more considerate drivers.
Even the cast members of “Glee” released a distracted driving PSA. Be human, and try not to look through people; stopping for people crossing the road is just like holding the door for somebody: it takes an extra second but it is the right thing to do. Finally, if you see me brandishing a flag, crossing the road, you can laugh all you want, but stop for Tara. She helped get the flags onto the beach, and will suffer chronic pain for the rest of her life because of one driver’s careless actions. Sunglasses or not, we can all try a little harder not to be that guy.