EXETER — For blind and visually impaired pedestrians, crossing the street can be a frightening experience, as Linda Slater knows all too well.
The Hanover Township resident, who is legally blind in one eye, uses a white cane when she walks. Many motorists seem not to notice, as she learned when trying to cross a street on a rainy day.
“For 20 minutes, I had my cane out and other pedestrians were at the crosswalk,” said Slater, 55. “For 20 minutes, we tried to get across that street. I was soaking wet.”
Helping pedestrians like Slater understand laws protecting pedestrians with visual impairments was the purpose of a PennDOT presentation Tuesday at Northeast Sight Services on Wyoming Avenue.
The state’s Blind Pedestrians Law, Title 75, Section 3549, mandates that the driver of the vehicle yield the right of way to any totally or partially blind pedestrian carrying a visible white cane or accompanied by a guide dog.
Failure to stop is a summary offense, punishable by a fine of $50 to $150.
The presentation was part of Highway Safety Law Awareness Week, which runs through Saturday. The other three laws PennDOT will bring to the attention of the public include Prohibiting Use of Hearing Impairment Devices, Traffic Control Signals, and Unattended Motor Vehicles.
Michael Taluto, PennDOT safety press officer, said he isn’t sure how long the laws have been around, but does know that some of them are not well known by the general public.
His hope is to change that.
“The whole goal is to promote the four laws that people aren’t aware of,” Taluto said. “If you see a blind person in downtown Scranton or downtown Wilkes-Barre, then (hopefully) you’re aware of the situation and you know what the law is.”
Sara Peperno, president and CEO of Northeast Sight Services, is thankful for PennDOT’s efforts.
“We feel very strongly that people should be obeying the laws, especially for those who are blind and visually impaired,” she said. “We hear it often from our clients that they’re not always safely able to navigate the streets if people aren’t cognizant to them.”
With PennDOT putting more stress on the Blind Pedestrians Law, Peperno said her group is going to do its best to help spread the word, as well.
“We’re going to continue to do what we always do,” she said. “We really do try to get the message and awareness out through all different forms throughout the year. This was just one opportunity to do that.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher