If a human being is walking between two solid lines -- or in some cases across solid rectangular dashes -- people in motor vehicles must stop.
Pretty simple concepts, those crosswalks.
For some reason, this doesn't always happen. Motorists often are so distracted by changing a CD, turning the radio, texting or talking that they don't even notice each other, let alone a pedestrian.
Or maybe the pedestrian is seen as a nuisance stalling an errand or an obstacle in the way of hitting that next traffic light.
Richard and his wife and dog take their life into their own hands every day when they embark on their morning walk to Bunker Park in the northwest part of the valley.
They trek along Pioneer Way and brave the crosswalks on Craig and Alexander road.
Even though they wait until traffic has cleared before stepping into the crosswalk, inevitably a motorist approaches and zips past them.
"They (crosswalks) are totally ignored. You can be halfway out there and these cars whiz right by you," Richard said. "It's almost like a game. They'll see how close they can get to you. The laws should be wiped off the books, because enforcement is nonexistent."
Law enforcement might be lax, but the laws themselves aren't exactly helpful. Take NRS 484B.280 (1) -- "Exercise due care to avoid a collision with a pedestrian."
Ignoring pedestrians in crosswalks is a significant enough problem to draw the attention of the state's Department of Public Safety, which funded a sting operation across the Las Vegas Valley last spring.
Traffic units from Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite and Boulder City targeted drivers who blew threw crosswalks while people were walking.
During that weeklong effort, officers issued 29 tickets to motorists who failed to yield to pedestrians.
The sting was performed at specific intersections, so to come up with a more accurate number of violators, one should multiply 29 by a bazillion when you consider the number of intersections in Southern Nevada.
"I've never seen anything like it. It's ridiculous," said Richard, who has lived in Las Vegas just short of a half-century. "The bad thing is police have people who work in homicide, for example, and those are investigated after the matter. Here police have a chance to stop it before a person is killed."
Hardly an exaggeration on Richard's part.
Earlier this month, a 22-year-old man walking to work was killed in a crosswalk at Craig Road and Berg Street. Earlier this week, three pedestrians and a baby in a stroller were struck while walking in the crosswalk. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.
Between 2000 and 2007, 434 pedestrians were killed statewide, according to the Public Safety Department. Representatives of the division did not return phone messages, so it remains unclear how many fatalities occurred in crosswalks.
Las Vegas Police Lt. John Faulis said his department takes crosswalk violators seriously, but acknowledged it can be challenging to enforce. If an officer is nearby, it might be difficult to judge whether the motorist truly failed to yield or whether the pedestrian stepped into the crosswalk without giving the driver a reasonable amount of time to stop.
Perching an officer at problem crossings doesn't typically net citations either.
"Whenever we're around, people are on their best behavior," Faulis said.
The most dangerous crosswalks are mid-block where there are no pedestrian control signals or traffic lights.
"A lot of people say they didn't see them or they weren't paying attention," Faulis said. "As a driver, you're not expecting them to be there. That's why it's so important for people to really pay attention while they're driving. When you're not thinking or looking for people, that's when bad things happen."
And then there are the drivers who don't believe it's necessary to stop at a red light before making a right turn. Faulis said not only are they breaking traffic laws, but they end up clipping a pedestrian who has the "walk" light.
Everybody should pay close attention in these coming months as police plan a covert enforcement program and plainclothes officers will be using crosswalks around the valley.
Faulis wasn't sure what the fine for failing to yield to a pedestrian is. Don't be the first to find out.
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