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Commentary: Keep an eye out for pedestrians in crosswalks

What is it with drivers and crosswalks around here? No one – OK, hardly anyone – pays attention to those lines on the road where people on foot are supposed to cross.

I've been told it's a regional thing, and I can relate. This goes back years and years, maybe 30 or so, when my parents took my brother and me to Niagara Falls for vacation.

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Niagara Falls is awesome, if you've never been – to see that much water raging down over a 165-foot drop that quickly is just fascinating. I wouldn't call myself a thrill-seeker, but I do enjoy a good roller coaster, and sky diving was one of the coolest things I've ever done. I remember thinking when I visited that I would love to go over the falls in a barrel – but obviously only if I was going to survive. I don't have a death wish.

That vacation aside, one of the other things I remember about our trip to Canada was the walk from our hotel down to the falls. We were standing on the curb, waiting to cross, when all of the sudden, the cars stopped for us. There was no traffic light that made them stop, no police officer or someone else directing traffic. It was just a simple pedestrian crosswalk, and the drivers stopped to let us cross.

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I remember asking my parents about it and they said it was the law, that drivers had to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

I'm not sure why, at 12 years old (or however old I was) that made such an impression on me that I can recall it so clearly almost 30 years later. (I do remember other parts of the trip, like the science center we went to in Toronto – that place was cool, too.)

I've had similar experiences in California, where drivers regularly stop and let someone cross the street when they're standing in the crosswalk.

I wish drivers around here would pay as much attention as they do in other parts of the country. A few times a week, I leave our office on Main Street and head over to the Ma & Pa Trail for a run. I cross Main where it comes together with Bond Street, near Klein's and the old post office.

I can't tell you how many cars drive right past me as I stand there, waiting patiently to cross the street. I regularly count 10, 15, 20 cars that drive on by. On occasion, a car will stop and let me go, but more often than not I get across the street because traffic has cleared, not because a courteous driver is obeying the crosswalk laws.

It's not like the crosswalks aren't marked. Aside from the cross-hatching in the road, bright neon yellow signs advertise the crossings to traffic. Not near our office, but farther up on Main Street, right near the Harford County Sheriff's Office – is a "pedestrian crosswalk" sign smack dab in the middle of the road. Yet people drive right on by the pedestrians standing on the curb. (And when you do cross and force cars to stop, they glare at you as you cross in front of them.)

Frankly, I'm amazed at how many cars just fly on through. It's certainly not something that's enforced by police – they're just as guilty of not stopping as everyone else on the road, yet I would think, being the upholders of the law, they would obey it. But heck, if a police officer doesn't stop, why should anyone else, right? School bus drivers don't stop either, yet I would think they would, given all the rules that apply to them. School bus drivers always want other drivers to drive properly around school buses, so why shouldn't those bus drivers drive properly, too?

I'm not sure everyone knows it's the law for drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. I got into an argument with a colleague who said I was going to get hit standing on the side of the road. I asked him why he didn't stop to let me cross and he said he didn't have to. He does. It went on and on.

I'm not sure what can be done to make drivers stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. If police aren't going to follow those rules, they certainly can't enforce them. I would just ask drivers to pay attention – and let a girl cross the street.

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