Like many traffic fatalities, pedestrian accidents are fully preventable. And yet nearly 47,000 people were killed and 688,000 were injured in the U.S. while crossing or walking along a street between 2000 and 2009 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This means that a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle nearly every 7 minutes.
In most communities, sometimes you’re a walker and sometimes you’re a driver. When you’re on the pedestrian-side of things, follow these safety tips from AARP Driver Safety:
- Use the sidewalk. If the street isn’t designed for pedestrians, don’t walk on it. Never walk on highways or in restricted zones.
- You know those “walk” and “do not walk” signs? Listen to them. Don’t jaywalk.
- Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume that a vehicle will stop for you just because you are waiting to cross. Try to make eye contact with the driver before initiating crossing. If you’re in a busy city, don’t cross without looking both ways—even when you have the pedestrian “walk” symbol—as drivers do occasionally run red lights.
- Do not walk long distances under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Just as you should never drive under the influence, do not walk long distances or in traffic-heavy areas when you are under the influence. Call a taxi or use public transportation.
- Be courteous. When a driver stops to allow you to cross, give him or her a quick wave to demonstrate your appreciation.
- You wouldn’t drive distracted, so don’t walk distracted. Stay aware of your surroundings by not texting, using headphones, or talking on your cell phone.
When you’re in the driver’s seat, avoid an accident by abiding by these five tips:
- Always be on the lookout. Pedestrians can—and will—be found anywhere, even places where you are not expecting it (like highways or busy, multiple-lane intersections). Therefore it’s crucial that you frequently scan the road ahead of you, including shoulders and sidewalks, so that you spot pedestrians before you approach them.
- Stay alert and avoid distracted driving. Assuming that they have the right-of-way, many pedestrians walk into the street without confirming that oncoming traffic is aware of their presence. Furthermore, pedestrians—especially children—are often hidden in between parked cars or behind other objects. To avoid an accident, stay alert by avoiding distractions. Do not eat or drink, fiddle with the radio or navigation units, or use a cell phone while driving.
- Show caution. There are likely areas in your community where you can anticipate pedestrians. In crosswalks and intersections, drive slowly and stop for pedestrians looking to cross—even if they are not at a marked crosswalk. When stopping at an unmarked point, stop far enough in advance so that the drivers behind you can also prepare to stop. Furthermore, when approaching a red light, be sure to stop far enough behind the line for pedestrians to cross safely.
- Be respectful. Don’t show hostility or aggression to drivers who are yielding to pedestrians. Never honk or get frustrated when the driver in front of you has stopped, and don’t attempt to pass the stopped vehicle in front of you.
- Watch for children. Because of their small size, children can be difficult to spot. Drive slowly and be on the lookout in school zones and residential neighborhoods.
In your community, do you prefer driving or walking? Are there any safety tips we missed, either for drivers or pedestrians?
Photo thanks to Emperor Collins.