As with its neighboring towns, the subject of crosswalks on Coastal Highway has come up in Fenwick Island, with law-enforcement officials, council members and residents expressing concerns about increases in near-accidents and injuries involving pedestrians.
Fenwick Island Police Chief William Boyden had a firsthand example, telling the town council at its Friday, Aug. 23, meeting that a pedestrian “walked right in front of me” on Coastal Highway recently.
Boyden expressed frustration about his attempts to get answers from state agencies regarding beefing up signage and other mechanisms for improving safety in the Route 1 crosswalks.
“Not only are we the furthest point in the state — apparently we’re the furthest point in the interest” of state officials, he said.
Boyden said he was told via email that any signs at crosswalks had to be paid for by the Town, which would also have to sign a “five-page agreement” regarding the signs.
He urged everyone at the council meeting to reach out to their representatives in the state legislature, as well as the state’s transportation secretary, “and express your concerns.”
“Our crosswalks are marked basically by paint in the road, and that’s it,” Boyden said. He expressed particular concern about the intersection of Routes 1 and 54, which is not within town limits but to which the FIPD responds when there are accidents and other issues there.
“I’ve been here since 2002, and every year I’ve been fighting with DelDOT as far as the signage and the way the lights are set up,” he said. “The fact that you have a crosswalk sign, that the signage gives you permission to cross the intersection at the same time you have vehicles turning onto the roadway, is ridiculous,” Boyden said.
The police chief said the federal Office of Highway Safety frequently gives out grants for education and enforcement efforts, but he added that the grants are targeted toward “static communities” — meaning those whose populations don’t fluctuate as a resort town’s does.
“We have a whole new population coming in every seven days,” Boyden said. “So the people that are coming in June” aren’t the same ones who are there and crossing the highway, or driving along it, in July.
“Part of the problem is that people are confused,” former council member Julie Lee said. “They see a crosswalk, and they don’t know what the rule is. … The bottom line is, if someone gets killed, we’re not going to be asking them whether or not they knew what the rule is, we’re going to be in a big situation.”
In Delaware, state law dictates that drivers yield to pedestrians already walking in their lane of travel and puts the onus on the pedestrian not to walk out into oncoming traffic, even at a marked crosswalk.
Boyden said he asked the man who walked in front of his vehicle, “Would you walk across [Interstate] 95 like this? This is a four-lane highway.” He said the man never checked for traffic and did not look either way as he crossed the road.
The town council approved the expenditure of $3,000 to erect educational signs at crosswalks inside town limits.
By Kerin Magill