Almanac

Viewpoint - November 6, 2013

Editorial: A safer way to walk on city streets

Menlo Park has been rocked by two serious accidents in recent weeks. In one case, an alleged drunken driver ended the lives of a couple out for an evening walk with their dog on Chilco Street when she ran them down. And in another, an elderly man mistakenly accelerated forward from a diagonal parking space in front of Walgreen's on Santa Cruz Avenue, hitting and seriously injuring 6-year-old twins walking down the sidewalk. One continues to recover.

One Almanac reader asked us to share some tips about how to avoid this type of accident in the future. Here are some common-sense precautions provided by AAA to guide pedestrians on a dark road with or without sidewalks. These tips will give anyone walking on a street or sidewalk a better chance of escaping a reckless or distracted driver.

• Always walk facing traffic, so you can see if a car coming your way is out of control. If it is, you may have enough time to jump out of the way.

• Another easy precaution is to make yourself highly visible. Wear colorful, reflective clothing, and carry a bright light. There are many small, flashing LED lights available today for walkers, runners and cyclists that are inexpensive and very bright. Or just carry a traditional flashlight.

• Do not cross in the middle of the street or between parked cars and cross only at intersections. Do not jaywalk.

The accident on Santa Cruz Avenue presents a different problem, one that is a challenge to older drivers and their families. In this case, the driver was 90 and using a walker. We can only speculate about why he zoomed forward instead of backing out from his parking space at Walgreen's. The children had no chance to escape, and both are lucky to be alive.

This accident raises questions about DMV examinations. Like all drivers, seniors are required to renew their license every five years. And after age 70, all drivers must apply in person at the DMV office. Sometimes, after an accident for example, older drivers may be asked to take the vision, written and driving tests. But if there has been no accidents or encounters with a police officer, the DMV may renew a senior citizen's license for five years without testing.

This policy should be examined by the Legislature and the governor. In our view, many elderly drivers are competent to get behind the wheel. But for the few who are not, allowing them on the road is not responsible. Why not require automatic testing for all drivers after age 70? And how about retesting after two or three years, not five? This would weed out those with problems before they cause an accident.

The Almanac recommends...

The Sequoia Union High School District

Alan Sarver and Chris Thomsen

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Peter Carpenter, Rex Ianson and Chuck Bernstein

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Portola Valley Town Council

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Atherton Parcel Tax

Vote yes.

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Las Lomitas School District Measure S

Vote yes.

Menlo Park City School District Measure W

Vote yes.

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