“No matter how remote the possibility of danger may seem, never take a chance with your own life or that of others. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Do not let distraction become the cause of a tragic accident.”
Those past-spoken words of advice from the Garrison Safety Office could apply to just about any work-related or leisurely activity at Fort Lee, but the emphasis this time is on pedestrian safety – a topic that’s relevant in a state that has seen record numbers of fatalities in that area for the past two years (123 deaths in 2018, and 120 in 2019 to be more specific).
It’s easy to become complacent on-post because traffic moves a lot slower than it does outside the gate. There’s a tendency to assume every driver is going to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk or along PT routes where traffic is prohibited on regular duty days from 5-7:30 a.m.
Not everyone recognizes the potential for harm as a result of family housing, troop barracks, classroom facilities, and customer service and administrative areas being in close proximity to main thoroughfares. Every weekday, service members can be seen marching to class in the morning or hoofing it back to their barracks in the afternoon. Joggers, battle buddies chatting on the way to the exchange and families strolling along Sisisky’s sidewalks also are among daily pedestrian activities.
So, here’s the bottom line – both vehicle operators and pedestrians have a responsibility to look out for each other to ensure personal safety.
Drivers should remain focused on their immediate surroundings, the road ahead and the shoulders to each side. Always obey posted speed limits, particularly in housing areas where children are often at play. Follow the rules prohibiting handheld use of cellphones on the installation, and anticipate the possibility of reckless behavior by individuals who step into the street expecting the right-of-way.
Pedestrians should use sidewalks and cross roads only at crosswalks. If neither is available, use extreme caution. Additional tips for foot traffic include the following:
• Stop. Look. Listen. The lesson learned in childhood still applies.
• Make sure vehicles in both directions have come to a complete stop before crossing the street. Even though pedestrians have the right-of-way, it does not mean the driver will give it to them. Drivers may not realize that pedestrians have the right-of-way, or may not see the individual.
• Look left and right, and keep looking left and right until safely across the street.
• When the light turns green in the direction being crossed, remember that there may be a vehicle turning left across the pedestrian path from oncoming traffic.
• When approaching the other side of the street, watch out for cars turning right on red. The driver may be looking right as he or she approaches the turn. This puts the pedestrian on the driver’s left when crossing the street, and the driver may not see the person on foot.
• Carry flashlights during hours of darkness and limited visibility. Clip-on lights are available for about one dollar in sporting goods stores and often come with a blinking light feature.
• Wear reflective clothing that is visible in all directions during low- or no-light conditions. Runners and walkers can place reflective arm bands on the elbow or wrist, and around the ankle. These areas will be in motion on a runner or walker, and the movement of the reflective material will catch the driver’s eye. Make sure the arm bands are placed on the right side of the body, which is the side that will be closest to traffic.
• Do not jog or walk while wearing headphones or earbuds in both ears as they can block the noise of approaching vehicles and the warning sirens of emergency responders. Those who can’t give up their tunes while running can use one the many treadmills at Fort Lee’s fitness facilities or the tracks in Williams Stadium and near the Strength Performance Center.
• Do not jaywalk or disregard signals, stop signs and crosswalks.
• Face traffic when traveling on roadway shoulders. This means run or walk against the traffic flow.