In 2014, the West Virginia University-Greater Morgantown Safe Communities Initiative submitted an application to the National Safety Council to become the 28th accredited Safe Community in the United States. To become an accredited Safe Community the organization applying must determine what the current safety issues are in their community. Through data collection the Initiative identified the top, preventable injuries and fatalities associated with accidents (intentional/unintentional).
Through data collection and analysis one of the glaring safety issues in our community were motor-vehicle accidents and pedestrian injuries. In 2013, Monongalia County experienced the second highest number of highway traffic crashes (676 crashes with 5 fatalities) among WV counties, second only to Berkeley County (712 crashes, 10 fatalities). Monongalia County also accounted for 4.2% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in West Virginia, which is the 4th highest county in the state.
In the previous 5 years, 105 pedestrians, with the majority (58) being 30 years old or younger, had been struck by motor vehicles. The Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board found that 31% of all pedestrian versus motor vehicle accidents from 1998-2008 occurred in the downtown area of Morgantown that is frequented by students and adjacent to the WVU campus. There were 12 intersections in this area that had 4 or more accidents during this time.
A survey of 472 Morgantown pedestrians found that 96.7% of pedestrians had nearly been hit by a car and 9% of respondents reported that they walked less than they wanted to in their neighborhood due to fear of being hit.
In 1991, LightGuard’s (crosswalk pedestrian warning system company) President, Michael Harrison conceived the idea of a pedestrian crosswalk warning system after a close friend was involved in a fatal crosswalk crash. After several years of research and development, the first ever lighted crosswalk system was created. In 1999, LightGuard presented its technology to the Federal MUTCD Marker and Signals Committees, recommending amendments to the existing MUTCD manual. After both committees approved the recommendations, the FHWA made the final decision on the language and inclusion of in-roadway warning lights at crosswalks into the Millennium Edition of the Federal MUTCD. (See: MUTCD Section 4N). LightGuard Systems® in-roadway warning lights (AKA lighted crosswalks), are now a recognized traffic calming standard in the U.S. LightGuard Systems holds multiple design and utility patents and is based in Santa Rosa, California.
The WVU-Greater Morgantown Safe Communities Initiative is seeking funding to purchase 2 of the systems. The systems will be installed at the 2 most dangerous intersections in the Morgantown area adjacent to WVU. LightGuard has been installing these systems in airports across the country. The Pittsburgh International Airport has the system installed in the passenger pick-up area of the terminal.
These locations will be monitored to determine if they do, indeed make the streets safer. There are efforts being planned to educate WVU students in regards to the current West Virginia Code for Pedestrian Safety Laws . Not only do drivers need to be aware of the laws and respect the right-of-way of pedestrians, but pedestrians need to be cognizant and obey pedestrian laws to decrease the likelihood of being injured or killed.
CHAPTER 17C. TRAFFIC REGULATIONS AND LAWS OF THE ROAD.
ARTICLE 10. PEDESTRIANS’ RIGHTS AND DUTIES.
§17C-10-1. Pedestrians subject to traffic regulations; powers of local authorities.
(a) Pedestrians shall be subject to traffic-control signals at intersections as provided in section five, article three of this chapter unless required by local ordinance to comply strictly with such signals, but at all other places pedestrians shall be accorded the privileges and shall be subject to the restrictions stated in this article.
(b) Local authorities are hereby empowered by ordinance to require that pedestrians shall strictly comply with the directions of any official traffic-control signal and may by ordinance prohibit pedestrians from crossing any roadway in a business district or any designated highways except in a crosswalk.
§17C-10-2. Pedestrians’ right-of-way in crosswalks.
(a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger, but no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield. This provision shall not apply under the conditions stated in section three paragraph (b) of this article.
(b) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
§17C-10-3. Crossing at other than crosswalks.
(a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
(b) Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
(c) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.
§17C-10-4. Drivers to exercise due care.
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this article every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.
§17C-10-5. Pedestrians to use right half of crosswalks.
Pedestrians shall move, whenever practicable, upon the right half of crosswalks.
§17C-10-6. Pedestrians on roadways; soliciting rides.
(a) Where sidewalks are provided it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway.
(b) Where sidewalks are not provided any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall when practicable walk only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction.
(c) No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride from the driver of any vehicle.
§17C-10-7. Penalty for pedestrians violating the provisions of this article.
Any person violating the provisions of this article is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars; upon a second conviction within one year thereafter, shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars; and upon a third or subsequent conviction, shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars.
§17C-10-8. Persons working on streets and highways.
The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to persons engaged in maintenance or construction work on a street or highway whenever he is notified of their presence by an official traffic-control device or flagman.