As Irene Giffin was crossing Leitersburg Pike’s northbound lanes in her motorized wheelchair in a crosswalk, vehicles coming out of a shopping center would pass in front of or behind her, the Hagerstown resident said.
“At one time, it was so close to me I could touch the car and it scared the living bejeebers out of me,” said Giffin, who uses a red flag that flies 3 feet to 4 feet above her wheelchair when she is in traffic situations.
Giffin said she thought at first she made a mistake or the traffic signals’ synchronization was mixed up.
But each time the electronic pedestrian sign gave her the go ahead to cross, the traffic signal turned green for traffic leaving both Long Meadow Shopping Center and Stone House Square.
George Small, assistant district engineer for the Maryland State Highway Administration’s Western Maryland district, said the SHA generally does not provide red light signals in all directions that would give pedestrians exclusive time to cross the street at isolated intersections.
“I understand what she’s faced with,” Small said, noting that he’s heard “more of this type of thing throughout the Hagerstown area.”
“I think it’s just poor driving,” Small said.
“The old thing about an ounce of prevention. It needs some enforcement, a couple of tickets,” Small said.
“You pay out the nose a couple of times, then maybe you’ll realize that a motorist is supposed to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. That’s the law.”
Hagerstown Police Capt. Mark Holtzman, who is the acting police chief, said the police department doesn’t set specific checks for crosswalk enforcement. However, keeping an eye out for crosswalk violators is a normal part of officers’ patrols, he said.
Educating the public is key, Holtzman said.
Holtzman said the police department will have auxiliary officers visit the two shopping centers on Dec. 11 to hand out pedestrian safety literature to shoppers.
Giffin, 62, said she often uses the crosswalk that stretches across Md. 60 — also known as Leitersburg Pike and Potomac Avenue in the area of the shopping centers from the Columbia Bank near Long Meadow Shopping Center to Stone House Square.
There are buttons on both sides of the crosswalk for pedestrians to push to activate the pedestrian crossing signal. That signal gives a verbal warning and a countdown for pedestrians to cross.
Giffin said the amount of time provided to cross is not the issue.
At least three times recently, vehicles drove in front of her wheelchair or behind her as she attempted to cross using the crosswalk, Giffin said.
“I looked up and I hollered, ‘Whoa,’ to this person coming in front of me,” she said. “Then, I looked up and absolutely he had the green light, but I also had the pedestrian light to cross.”
Giffin said she went home and called the city of Hagerstown and then the state highway administration because she thought there was a problem with the synchronization of the traffic and pedestrian signals.
Sharing the road
Small said the State Highway Administration doesn’t usually provide pedestrians exclusive time to use a crosswalk by giving motorists in every direction red lights.
“For one thing, it just absorbs an immense amount of time,” Small said.