Strange sights in Dewey Beach are not uncommon, but a zombie walking the streets in the middle of the day?
A zombie was using the crosswalk in front of the Starboard Restaurant July 26 as part of a pedestrian safety checkpoint sponsored by the state Office of Highway Safety, Dewey Beach police, Delaware Department of Transportation and Delaware State Police.
The safety campaign, “Don't Join The Walking Dead,” a take off on the hit TV show, started in New Castle County over Memorial Day weekend. The significance of the campaign has been unfortunately spotlighted by 13 pedestrian deaths on the state's roads so far this year with five of those deaths in Sussex County, all at night.
During the checkpoint, staff from the state agencies and police stopped and spoke with pedestrians walking along and crossing Route 1 near the Starboard Restaurant. Many were stopped for crossing the road illegally, but no tickets were issued; the checkpoint was not an enforcement stop.
Dewey Beach Police Lt. J. William Hocker said it’s hard to educate people when there is such a high turnover rate of vacationers. He says he frequently issues warnings. “I try not to ticket, if possible, but if people are warned and don’t obey, noncompliance can be deadly, as we have seen in the tragic events this summer.”
Alison Kirk, Office of Highway Safety spokeswoman, said some people are shocked by the “Walking Dead” campaign, but that’s the campaign's aim. “Shock value gets you to pay attention and to talk about it,” Kirk says, “that is the point of the campaign.”
Right-of-way for pedestrians
Kirk said the main reason for the campaign is to educate the public about traffic laws pertaining to pedestrians. Under state law, pedestrians have the right of way in designated crosswalks, but only when it does not present a hazard. Crossing at signalized intersections is one thing; crossing without signals is another.
Drivers are required to yield by slowing down or stopping to allow pedestrians to cross the street when pedestrians are in a crosswalk.
However, in heavy traffic situations – such as Route 1 in Dewey Beach – pedestrians crossing at intersections or streets without traffic signals must wait for breaks in traffic to cross the street, Kirk said. Once a pedestrian steps out into a crosswalk during a break in traffic, motorists are required to yield or stop. She said the safest way to cross busy roads and streets is to cross using a designated crosswalk with a traffic signal.
Adding to the confusion, some towns have stricter laws. For example, in Lewes vehicles must stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks regardless of traffic.
The Delaware law:
• When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation or when the operator of a vehicle is making a turn at an intersection, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
• No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
• Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
Starboard works to promote safety
Part of the reason the Starboard was chosen as a location was for visibility as well as for owner Steve “Monty” Montgomery’s dedication to safety. Montgomery is active in the HERO campaign, designed to support designated drivers. “We, as an establishment, share everyone’s concerns about our beach towns being safe. We realize this is a state highway,” Montgomery said. “We want pedestrians to realize that drivers might be in a hurry to get to other beach towns, and to be careful when crossing and obey the laws – use the crosswalks.”
For their part, the Starboard Restaurant tries to put as much distance between pedestrians and vehicles as they can; restaurant staff puts out barriers on sidewalks and streets outside the establishment to provide walkways for pedestrians.
Another checkpoint is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, on Second Street in Lewes. For more information on the campaign as well as pedestrian safety tips go to ohs.delaware.gov/PedestrianSafety.
Sussex County pedestrian fatal crashes:
• Four crashes that killed five pedestrians happened between June 8 and July 11; all were males ages 37 to 79, in the areas of Route 1 and Route 54 between 8:51 p.m. and 11:03 p.m.
• Alcohol involved on part of at least three pedestrians and one driver – one crash is still under investigation.
• State police note the following contributing factors: Pedestrian stepping into the lane of traffic; pedestrian attempting to cross the road and entering a lane in front of traffic; pedestrian stepping from median into the travel lane in front of traffic; and pedestrian walking in the wrong direction (back to traffic) in a turn lane.
• None of the crashes happened at crosswalks, signaled or marked intersections.