Pedestrian safety comes into play every time you step out, so knowing how to mitigate risks helps everyone.
According to the National Safety Council, thousands of pedestrians are killed and many more seriously injured across the United States yearly. So whatever your destination, it's good to take some simple steps to keep you and your family safe.
When you're the pedestrian walking
- Use sidewalks. When available, they are the safest place to walk. If no sidewalk is provided, it is usually safer to walk facing road traffic, as far left as possible, but use extreme caution. Stay off freeways and other restricted zones.
- Be visible. Light colors and wearing clothes with reflective materials make you stand out. If you're in a very dark area, you might want to carry a flashlight as well, to help see where you're going and make yourself more visible.
- Stay alert. There are a lot of distracted drivers on the road, so be aware at all times. Don't allow your vision to be blocked by clothing or hats or yourself to get distracted using your cell phone. Make eye contact with drivers to have a sense of whether they see you.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. They can greatly impair your ability to walk safely and make good decisions. This also includes some over-the-counter medications. Read labels to know potential side effects.
- Cross streets at a corner. While it may be tempting to cross mid-block, this is where most injuries occur. Using traffic signals and crosswalks is much safer, especially in high-traffic areas.
- Look both ways. Look left, then right, then left again before crossing. Keep your eyes open as you cross and be aware that drivers might not see you even though you can see them.
- Be especially careful at intersections. This is where many drivers may fail to yield the right-of-way while turning onto another street. If there is a pedestrian signal, watch and follow the pedestrian signal in favor of the traffic signal.
- Always avoid texting and using the internet on your phone while walking. When walking or crossing a street, avoid cellphone use completely so you are observant of your surroundings and to reduce risks and dangers. Texting and walking is distracting and makes it difficult to watch for traffic and obstacles in your path.
- Watch out for parked vehicles. Parking lots can be especially dangerous as most drivers have a limited view when backing out. Drivers are often not expecting anyone to be walking there and extra attention is always needed.
When you're driving
- Be aware of children. They are often impulsive and can dart out in the street at any time. Follow the speed limit and be especially cautious around residential neighborhoods and school zones.
- Yield to pedestrians. When making a turn and waiting for an opening in traffic, be aware that pedestrians may have moved into your path. They always have the right-of-way.
- Be cautious around driveways and alleys. When entering and exiting, these can be very difficult places to spot pedestrians. Keep a close lookout, and if you can't see clearly, slow down.
- Reduce distractions. Spotting pedestrians requires your full attention. Using a cellphone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reading a map, or changing the radio station only makes your driving more distracted, difficult and dangerous. If you are using a navigation app on your phone, set your destination before you begin driving.
- Approach crosswalks carefully. If a pedestrian is crossing or about to cross, stop well back so drivers in other lanes also have time to yield. Do not pass another vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians.
- Follow the speed limit. Abiding by speed limits increases a driver’s ability to see and watch for pedestrians, to adjust for curves or objects in the roadway and to avoid dangerous situations. Be sure to plan ahead to allow for extra time to get to your destination, take time to call ahead if you’re running late and always follow the speed limit.
- Never drink and drive. When you drink and drive, you’re compromising cognitive ability and responsiveness, which increases your risk of hitting someone or having an accident.
Remember, being aware of your surroundings is critical no matter how you get around. A little common sense and good judgment can help everyone safely share the road.