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During the evening of September 22, 2009, a 12-year-old boy rode his bike into a crosswalk in Centerville, Utah and was struck by a car whose driver apparently did not see the boy in time to avoid the collision. The boy who had been hospitalized since the tragic accident died yesterday as a result of the injuries incurred from the accident, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The Tribune reported that the accident "occurred on a dark street, and [the boy] was wearing dark clothes and had no lights displayed on his bike when he entered a crosswalk and rode into the path of the car."

Our hearts break every time we read about such sad events. As parents, we can only imagine the grief felt by the parents who have lost their son. We also feel the horror and grief that the driver must be feeling, who was said to have been obeying the law and driving within the posted speed limit at the time of the accident. None of us would ever want to be in the shoes of either the parents or the driver.

Even in this tragic accident, we can use this story to again emphasize bike safety for our children, regardless of their age. I read some of the readers’ comments following this article in the Tribune, and realized that some people still think it is illegal to ride a bike in a crosswalk. That is not always true. It depends on the circumstances and the local ordinances or traffic control signals/devices in the area. Utah Code Annotated §41-6a-1106 establishes the rules regarding bicycles on crosswalks/sidewalks, etc.:

A person may not operate a bicycle or a vehicle or device propelled by human power on a sidewalk, path, or trail, or across a roadway in a crosswalk, where prohibited by a traffic-control device or ordinance.

According to this preceding section, riding a bicycle on a path, sidewalk, or even in a crosswalk across the highway is allowed, except where specifically prohibited by ordinance or a specific traffic-control device. In all other other cases, it is allowable. However, that right to use sidewalks or crosswalks is not unfettered. Subsection (4) of that same section clarifies that:

(4) A person operating a bicycle or a vehicle or device propelled by human power on a sidewalk, path, or trail, or across a driveway, or across a roadway on a crosswalk may not operate at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the existing conditions, giving regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.

In the case of the 12-year-old boy, it appears that the accident might have been avoided by stopping before entering the crosswalk, particularly where it was not illuminated by street lights, in order to determine if he could safely cross. Always stress to your children that they should not ride after dark, unless they comply with the legal requirements of a white front light, a rear red light, and reflectors that can be seen from the side. These safeguards may not insulate your children from accidents, but the greatly increase the level of safety, if they must be on the streets after dark. In all instances, during daylight or at night, care must be taken to avoid rushing out into traffic, even while in a crosswalk. Teach your kids never to cross in front of traffic, until and unless it has stopped for them, or even better, until the road is clear of traffic.

By following these few simple rules, let’s hope such tragedies can be avoided.

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