Being a pedestrian ain’t easy. As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says, at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian. But that doesn’t mean everyone is walking safely.
In 2015, the last full year for which data was available, pedestrians saw an uptick in deaths — a total of 5,376 fatalities nationwide. In its publication Traffic Safety Facts, the NHTSA estimates that “a pedestrian is killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes.” This doesn’t include parking lots.
In 2012, at least, a full 73 percent of pedestrian deaths took place in urban environments, rather than rural ones, and 70 percent occurred at non-intersections as opposed to intersections. About 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities happened at night. Average age of death was 46, and the average age of injury was 35.
[Going for more than a walk? Check out our Security Tips For Runners.]
More figures: 48 percent of fatality-related crashes involved alcohol. About a third of pedestrians in fatal crashes had a high blood alcohol level; but only 14 percent of drivers did. The publication also notes that “The pedestrian fatality rate of major cities are often much higher than the national average.”
So how to keep yourself from becoming one of these statistics? Walk smart.
Walk In The Day
If 70 percent of traffic accidents happened at night, it’s safest if you keep your walking to the daylight hours. If you do decide to walk at night, wear light-colored, reflective clothing for increased visibility, but remember that the onus is on YOU to see the oncoming vehicle, not the other way around. Check carefully in every direction before proceeding. Which brings us to …
Don’t dart out between two parked cars like a startled deer. Cross in well-lit areas, and when you use that well-lit crosswalk, make sure you obey its signage, and don’t dart out at the last minute to make the crossing. Be aware of turning vehicles. It helps to make eye contact with waiting drivers so you know they’re aware of you.
No crosswalk around? Cross only at corners in their absence.
Stay On The Sidewalk
In many rural or suburban areas, one may not have a sidewalk, and you might have to walk against traffic in order to see it coming. Healthy Monadnock says to walk against traffic. This lets you make snap judgements (bush driving, anyone?) and make eye contact that can assure your safety.
Don’t Drink And Take A Long Walk
Call a taxi, an Uber, or a Lyft. Or a buddy. (If you must walk, don’t do so alone.) The risks are just too high.
Stop And Look, And Look Again
Yep, just like you were taught as a child. Presumably you’re being a good pedestrian and crossing at the corner, but sometimes — like in a subdivision or on a long rural road — that’s not possible. So look, wait, pause, make sure there is an adequate gap in traffic you can make without sprinting, and cross calmly and purposely.
Put Down Your Phone
Do not attempt to cross the street, or even walk up the street, while texting or listening to music. You will bump into people — the least of your safety concerns, unless they happen to be men with attitude problems. Crossing a road, especially in an urban area, demands all your attention to stay safe. Give it the attention it deserves by stowing your device for the duration of your walk.
Walking With Kids
When it comes to kids, who make up a good percentage of pedestrian injuries, stay between them and traffic, holding their hands firmly (especially near the street), and putting them a stroller if necessary. Beyond that, parents need to model and teach good pedestrian rules so their children are safe beyond the narrow purview of their clutched hand.
And strollers? First, don’t push your stroller out into the road to check for traffic conditions (you’d be surprised how instinctive this is). Make sure you have the correct stroller for your child, and that it has a working brake, which you should engage any time you are stopped. Do not hang a bag from the handles, which can cause it to tip, and do not leave it in the sun for too long. This can make the metal parts hot and burn you or the baby.
Make doubly sure you’re obeying all traffic laws, wearing bright (during the day) or light (at night) colored clothing, but why the heck do you have your stroller out at night, unless you live in a large metropolitan city? Stick to brightly lit areas where cars are likely to see your likely-dark-colored stroller, which you may want to enhance with reflective tape if you’ll be out at night.
Walking With Dogs
Then there are the rules for doggies. Again, stick to the sidewalk. Clean up after up your pet. And especially in an urban environment, only walk dogs that are friendly to other humans and pets, or you could have a lawsuit slapped at you. At the very least, no one likes being sniffed at as they walk by. Many people teach their dog to sit at intersections, and it’s a great idea for canines who will be moving through a city on a regular basis.