It was just like any other day for drivers Wednesday, May 27, as they made their way up Winchester Road to the unincorporated area of Murrieta. The sun shone brightly as the stop light at the intersection at Benton Road turned first yellow, then red, halting the flow of traffic.
As the “walk” sign on the stoplight pole indicated it was safe to cross the street, an unassuming man in T-shirt, shorts and flip flops, carrying nothing but his drink and a phone, stepped off the curb and began to make his way across the crosswalk. As he began to progress across the busy intersection, a car pulled up into the crosswalk nearly hitting the man, who reacted with an incredulous look at the driver.
The man continued on his way, but for the unsuspecting driver, the incident which is commonly observed on many streets throughout the valley, was only just beginning.
Immediately after the encounter, the driver was directed by a California Highway Patrol officer, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, to pull over.
The stunned driver obeyed the officer’s orders and ultimately learned that unassuming pedestrian in the T-shirt, shorts and flip flops was not really a pedestrian, but Officer Robertson, an undercover CHP officer who played a major part in the California Highway Patrol’s pedestrian safety enforcement operation focusing on motorists and pedestrians who failed to yield the right of way.
That driver was one of many that day who learned all about pedestrian safety from the CHP officers who conducted the operation.
“Pedestrian safety is a key issue in our community, and the CHP is committed to upholding pedestrian safety laws to protect our citizens,” CHP Temecula Area Officer Mike Lassig, a representative for the law enforcement agency, said.
Lassig said that 17 citations were issued, 11 warnings were issued and an untold number of citizens were educated on the importance of pedestrian safety during the three hour period officers conducted the operation, which focused on drivers and pedestrians who were violating the right of way laws.
“The Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operation was successful,” Lassig said. “Every contact the CHP made was an educational experience for the motorist. Our local media has assisted us in our efforts to spread the word of pedestrian safety allowing a large number of the community to understand the importance for both motorists and pedestrians that may travel through a crosswalk.”
According to Lassig, some rules of the road and basic safety practices shared with both drivers and pedestrians included the following.
Drivers should be on the lookout for and yield the right of way to pedestrians and should slow down when in an area where pedestrians are likely to be. Drivers should never pass a car stopped for pedestrians. It is against the law and highly dangerous for those crossing the street.
Pedestrians are not above the law either, Lassig said, adding that pedestrians should always cross at the corner, at crosswalks or intersections wherever possible since those locations are where drivers expect to see pedestrians.
Pedestrians should also look both ways for traffic before crossing, make eye contact with the driver and make certain cars are yielding before crossing. Having the right of way does not prevent a pedestrian from being seriously injured by a driver who is not paying attention. Remember, pedestrians don’t have armor.
Pedestrians should also wear bright colored, reflective clothing and use a flashlight when walking during hours of darkness so drivers can see them.
Lassig said that while operations such as this one are held sporadically as funding is made available he hopes that everyone involved walked away with a greater understanding of rules of the road for both drivers and pedestrians.
“The CHP’s goal is to educate the community and the motoring public on the importance of pedestrian and crosswalk safety,” Lassig said. “Our goal is to reduce the number of automobile and pedestrian traffic collisions. Laws are set in place to prevent people from getting injured or killed.”
Funding for the pedestrian safety enforcement operation was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The CHP is committed to doing our part to keep the community safe. We urge every member of the community to be safe and follow the rules of the road. Traffic safety is everyone’s responsibility,” the CHP said in an emailed statement to Valley News.
For additional information, contact the CHP Temecula Area’s Public Information Officer Mike Lassig at (951) 506-2000.
Kim Harris can be reached by email at email@example.com.