Sixty years ago, we could always "assume it is clear to cross when quiet."
You're probably wondering how I know this is true.
I know because Stanley Suterko himself told me!
He was one of the first 5 O&M specialists in our profession, and he shared the following story about O&M instruction the 1940's:
Is it still always clear to cross when quiet?
He told me that whenever any of the blinded soldiers said they were afraid to cross streets, the instructors would demonstrate that it was always clear to cross whenever it was quiet.
They did this by having the soldiers listen when it was quiet, and when they heard a vehicle they compared the time it took for that vehicle to reach them with the time they needed to cross.
The time from detection to arrival of the vehicles was always more than the time they needed to cross.
I asked if there were any exceptions and he said no.
Regardless of whether the street was in the suburbs or downtown, they could hear all the cars well enough that whenever it was quiet, they knew it was clear to cross (if there was a car coming that could reach them during their crossing, they would have heard it!).
Since Dick crossed the 6-lane highway himself with his guide dog (according to neighbors), I decided to analyze whether it was clear to cross whenever it is quiet there.
I waited till it was quiet, then started a timer when I heard a car coming.
It took 10 seconds for that car to reach me so I thought, "Great! If I can hear all the cars at least 10 seconds away, then whenever it is quiet and I don't hear any cars, I know it is clear to cross."
However, I did this again a half-dozen times, waiting until it was quiet and then starting a timer when I heard a car coming.
There were two cars that I couldn't hear until they were only 3 seconds away (one was going very fast, one was cruising very slowly).
If I had started to cross just before I heard them (when it was still quiet), they would have reached me just after I entered the second lane.
I was dumfounded. Blown away.
The strategy that I had been teaching for 18 years -- "it is clear to cross when quiet" -- was not true at the crossing where Dick and Lorraine were killed.