Does anyone else think that Maine’s crosswalk law is not necessarily a good idea?

Let me start by saying that this is an opinion article. I usually report news, filled with facts, but sometimes I just feel like speaking out when I feel passionately about something. And Maine’s crosswalk law definitely brings out some strong feelings.

Over the weekend, I was on South Main Street in Brewer and saw a young man, waiting at the edge of a crosswalk. I stopped. He started to step out, but realized the car coming the other way was not slowing down, because they hadn’t spotted him. He hesitated, and the other vehicle’s driver finally saw him and stopped, as well. He was smart. He didn’t assume the other vehicle would stop.

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This is a best-case scenario. But I’m sure it’s happened differently for many of us. People step into crosswalks, despite an oncoming vehicle. They walk out of stores and wander into the parking lot, often without even looking to see if there’s any oncoming traffic. In my opinion, the Maine crosswalk law has made too many people complacent, so they've forgotten one of the first rules of kindergarten: ‘look both ways before crossing the street.’

Then there’s the fact that, even if I stop for someone in a crosswalk, there’s no guarantee the person behind me is going to notice and be able to stop in time. And don’t get me started on crosswalks at intersections, where pedestrians get a ‘walk’ light at the same time drivers are able to turn right on red. It’s a disaster waiting to happen and, too often it does.

I don't mean to put the onus entirely on the pedestrians. It's every driver's responsibility to watch for crosswalks, be alert to people standing on the side of the road, and have their attention totally on what's in front of them. But distracted driving is a fact of life, too often with fatal consequences. All it takes is a glance down at a phone, or at the radio, or at the kids in the backseat, for a driver to miss the fact that someone has stepped into the crosswalk. I know, it's illegal to look at your phone while driving, but we all know there are people who still do.

In my opinion, either all crosswalks should be equipped with flashing lights, or the law should be changed so pedestrians don't have the right-of-way. Maybe it will encourage pedestrians to look both ways, cross when it's safe, and never, ever assume an oncoming vehicle will stop because 'it's the law.'

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