Editorial: Look both ways


Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 11:33 p.m.

There's plenty of blame to go around as Gainesville continues to have problem with cars hitting pedestrians.

To be sure, pedestrians are legally in the right. State law requires vehicles to stop for pedestrians inside of most crosswalks.

Drivers only had to yield before the law was changed in 2008, so there's some understandable confusion.

Numerous drivers are either oblivious to the change or ignore the law, as shown by the dozens of motorists cited by Gainesville police in recent enforcement details on Southwest 62nd Boulevard.

But pedestrians, specifically University of Florida students, must also take responsibility.

Anyone who has driven in the campus area knows that students brazenly walk in front of cars, often while talking on phones or listening to headphones.

Being legally in the right doesn't protect them from injury or death. And in some cases, drivers just slamming on the brakes for students preparing to cross the road can cause rear-end collisions or other problems.

We applaud Gainesville police and city government for taking the issue seriously in the wake of recent accidents. Flashing beacons and signs are a good way to increase the awareness of drivers, while a police enforcement program drives the point home with tickets and fines.

Such education efforts have been successful in decreasing accidents involving pedestrians to 89 in 2012 from 142 in 2010.

But more should be done to educate students. Maybe UF should start teaching them what they should have learned when they were 5 years old — look both ways before crossing.

Gainesville has rightly taken steps to increase walking, bicycling and riding the bus. We should strive to be a pedestrian-friendly community, using methods to slow traffic and improve safety.

But that doesn't mean living in fantasy land about the reality that cars will continue to rule the roads. Drivers must wake up to the law. Students need to wake up on put away their cellphones and MP3 players before it's too late.

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