By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
When you live in a town that relies on tourism, you get accustomed to seeing all kinds of people. One of the benefits in living in such a community is the opportunity to observe and interact with people and cultures from around the world. “People watching” has become as big of a pastime as bird watching.
As I navigate the streets of Cherokee, whether on foot or in a vehicle, I regularly see vehicular traffic disregarding the pedestrian crosswalks, and I see pedestrians crossing in areas not designated for pedestrian crossing. Watching the interactions of cars and those walking our streets is an eye-opening and sometimes frightening experience.
The Cherokee Code mirrors the traffic laws of North Carolina. From the NCDOT Laws and Policies, “Under North Carolina Law, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections and driveways. However, pedestrians must act responsibly, using pedestrian signals where they are available. When crossing the road at any other point other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk or when walking along or upon a highway, a pedestrian has the statutory duty to yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway. It is the duty of pedestrians to look before starting across a highway, and in the exercise of reasonable care for their own safety, to keep timely lookout for approaching traffic”.
I regularly see examples of what can happen by carelessly driving a vehicle and distracted people walking the streets. In North Carolina in 2013, 8 percent of all pedestrians involved in a motor vehicle crash were killed – 172 lives lost (www.connect.ncdot.gov.). More people being distracted by new feature and electronics, combined with increased foot traffic during “tourist season” in Cherokee, makes for increased risk for our community members and guests.
It is the responsibility of both drivers and those on foot in and around the streets of the Qualla Boundary to use care and obey traffic laws. While law gives responsibility to all, it acknowledges the added weight for those operating vehicles. NCDOT section 20-174E states. “Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon a highway, 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”.
Having clearly marked crosswalks and properly working crossing signals are key safety features in our pedestrian traffic areas. Adherence to traffic laws by drivers and walkers is critical to the prevention of injury and loss of life. Please use common sense and good judgement with regard to pedestrians. No activity should be more important than the preservation of life when you are operating your vehicle, or walking in areas where vehicles are in motion.