My son, who lives and works in Silicon Valley, delights us in discussing the progress of Google’s “cars that drive themselves”, which can regularly be seen toting along the streets in his neighborhood. Being blind, he has a special interest in this new technology, (although UBER has provided a suitable stop gap in the meantime.) A report on the self-driving cars shows that in the history of trials, there have been 4 accidents; 3 were someone else’s fault and 1 was the car’s fault, but technically the car was right.  Because it had been programmed with the rules of the road, the car was following the law, but it was a law Californians routinely break and of which the programmed car had no knowledge. Currently, the Googlers are working on programming the car for these types of idiosyncrasies.

My car, which routinely FOLLOWS rules, almost caused an accident this morning when fellow Rhode Island drivers followed their own rule idiosyncrasies; IGNORING CROSSWALKS. Somehow it appears that most drivers think their CARS have the right of way and the white stripes on the ground are decorative, not meaningful.

A lovely, older woman, clinging to hold her coat shut against the frigid air, gray hair flailing about in the wind, was waiting on the curb in front of a crosswalk.  Drawn in at first by the sight of her, then by the crosswalk that loomed in front of her, I stopped my car. The car behind be, which had been tailgating, came within a hair’s breadth of hitting me, evidenced by the car’s screech and swerve up onto the curb, sounding it’s horn so loud I thought it was foggy and I was a boat in the bay. Once that car had settled with one wheel on the sidewalk, the startled woman boldly took a few tentative steps in front of my car to begin her crossing adventure. She stood in front of my car while 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 cars quickly passed by without pausing at all and the fog horn sounded again behind me. Finally, the 9th car stopped after he had correctly slowed down seeing the crosswalk.  Looking over, I saw the driver smile and motion for the petrified woman to continue to cross.  She tentatively shuffled her little elderly feet in front of him. Coming from the other direction, and with advance observation of what was happening in front of them, the cars in the opposing 2 lanes stopped to allow her to successfully complete her daring adventure. She shuffled more quickly, head down, hair flying, coat flinging open. When she triumphantly stepped onto the sidewalk on the other side, my heart, which had sunk into my stomach, slowly rose to its normal position. On my way I went, encouraged on by the sound of the fog horn once again.

The near miss accident intrigued me.  Have I gone the way of the Google self-driving car which follows the law but can still cause an accident?  Or was everyone else who didn’t stop following the way of the recalculated Google self-driving car which make accommodations for laws which are routinely broken? Either way, my assumption was the driver-less car would have been more observant on obeying a law which allows a frail, grandmotherly type woman to live a few years longer by allowing her to cross the street safely.





The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:


Comments on: "Crosswalks, people, CROSSWALKS!" (14)

  1. I certainly would’ve stopped regardless of age, etc. Not only is it the law, but it’s just common courtesy which is something we seem to have lost. In Hawai’i it is considered extremely rude to honk your horn unless it is to beep to let someone know you give them the right-of-way. As more mainlanders move here though, I do hear horns a little more frequently. Regarding the man behind you, I would wish for a very loud bull horn. I think I would have gotten out of my car after the second blast and given a blast for him! But, then I would’ve been equally as rude.

  2. I tried to reply via email, but it’s not cooperating. so here goes again. I can relate to the elderly lady trying to cross the road. I often feel like I[‘m playing with fire when my guide dog and I try to cross a busy road. If I’m with a guide dog instructor she often giggles at people waving me on or honking their horns. Of course i have no idea if they are telling me to go, or if there is some kind of problem. Then there are those that just don’t stop when they should etc. Enjoyed the previous comment where the person said they would like a bullhorn lol.

  3. Gosh, it annoys me to no end that most people around here consider stopping at a crossroad when someone is waiting to cross to be voluntary, not the law. I’va also been honked at and have seen a crosser almost get hit when a car swerved out from behind me and sped up to continue in hus merry way while someone was crossing. As a walker, I’ve also seen my fair share of drivers literally turn their heads the other way to pretend they didn’t see me.

  4. the fact that impatient and rude drivers do not follow the laws is not your fault. Glad the woman made it safely across.

  5. I’ve often observed at WalMart, that people rarely stop for people in crosswalks, they are in too much of a hurry to get to a parking space, or get out of the parking lot. I think it especially discourteous to a pedestrian to drive by in their nice, cozy car, when I am trying to cross in the pouring rain!

    At Penn State University, students pay no attention to crosswalks, often emerging unseen from between cars, or crossing against red lights, it’s a regular obstacle course!

    Some of us are just more observant, and follow those pesky laws.

  6. You mean that there is a marked zebra crossing and drivers simply choose not to stop? Routinely? I’m speechless. You’ll get the odd hoon over here (Australia), but most drivers just automatically stop – as is required by the law – when they see a person at the side of the road at a marked crossing. Having said that, there is often an eye contact kind of thing that happens – if there is no car following, then the pedestrian may indicate they will wait for the car to pass. Conversely, I regularly experience drivers who stop regardless, and then I proceed with a courtesy wave to them.

  7. Makes me crazy when pedestrians ignore the crosswalk half a block away just to dash across busy lanes of traffic. Unless that person is on fire, I don’t understand the need to endanger everybody else. On the other hand, as you illustrate so well, cautious and law-abiding pedestrians do have the right of way, which all too often they are denied.

  8. Hi again! I don’t know if you do awards, but I just wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award. You can hop over to my post to see what it entails. Hope you’re having a great day!

  9. I thought this was going to be a completely different post based on the title. My problem is that people, wearing all black in the dark, refuse to use the crosswalk or sidewalks for that matter and I can’t stop if I don’t see you. I’ve nearly hit two people this year because of it and I wish pedestrians understood the laws of physics as they relate to momentum.

    But on this subject: We live across the street from a school and you would not believe how many people speed through the crosswalk while the lights are flashing! I mean, these are children – people need to slow down and hit the brake every once in a while! Also, I hate driving and wouldn’t mind the google car except that I’d have to take off my aluminum foil hat to actually ride in one.

  10. I must admit I wondered what could possibly be that interesting about crosswalks but you’ve nailed it. A sort of discourse on morality, neurology and the law. Wow!
    Thanks and love,
    Full Spectrum Mama

  11. I love your blog. Such touching and informative information. It’s scary how people don’t acknowledge crosswalks. 😦

  12. I enjoyed reading your blog post. I recently did a research project on self driving cars for a class I am currently taking. Learning about these vehicles is extremely important because they are becoming more popular in today’s society. However, the big debate is if they are safe or not. Like you said, these cars obey all the laws and in the incident you described it saved a lady’s life. While researching I learned that 94% of car crashes are caused by human error. Therefore, with self driving cars the amount of crashes should decrease. However, you mentioned that these cars are unaware of the idiosyncrasies of certain places. Although there would be less human errors, these cars could cause many crashes due to the fact that they do not understand human habits.

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