Whether you’re walking to work, going from your car to a store, or just out for a stroll, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings while walking as a pedestrian. In 2015, over 5,000 pedestrians were killed in accidents involving vehicles, and many more were injured.
Some accidents can’t be prevented, but you can reduce your risk of injuries and dangerous situations by following some simple safety tips when out and about.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians
As a pedestrian, you’re far more vulnerable than drivers if an accident occurs. Here are some things you can do to keep yourself and those around you safe while out walking.
Stay Visible to Drivers
Many accidents occur when the driver cannot see you. It’s important to make yourself as visible as possible to drivers, especially at night or during inclement weather when visibility is low. A third of all accidents resulting in pedestrian deaths happen between 8pm and midnight, so if you are running or walking at night, wear a reflective vest or a headlamp so that cars can see you.
Distracted pedestrians have an increased risk of being involved in accidents. If you are looking at your phone or listening to music while walking, you aren’t fully paying attention to the road and other cars. You should especially avoid looking at your phone while crossing the street.
Use Sidewalks Whenever Possible
Sidewalks exist to keep pedestrians safe, so use them whenever possible, and avoid walking in the road except when crossing the street. If a street does not have a sidewalk, be sure to walk close to the edge of the road on the side facing traffic so drivers will be able to see you. If construction work is blocking the sidewalk, follow the directions indicated by the construction crew, or cross the street to use the other sidewalk.
Practice Safety When Crossing the Street
If a street has a crosswalk, always use it when crossing. It can be tempting to cross in the middle of the street so you don’t have to walk far to the crosswalk, but vehicles and bikers may not be expecting this. It’s always safer to walk to a crosswalk and wait until you see the walk signal if there is one, looking both ways before stepping into the road. If cars are stopped, make eye contact with the driver so you know he or she can see you when you cross.
Don’t Assume All Vehicles Will Stop
Before crossing, always make sure that vehicles have stopped. Some drivers and bikers may try to run a red light and may not see you trying to cross. Wait until all oncoming vehicles have come to a complete stop before stepping into the street.
Watch Young Children
Small children are harder to see from vehicles. It’s important to keep them close to make sure they’re visible to drivers and bikers, and be sure they know not to run into the street. Teach your children the importance of pedestrian safety, and hold their hands while out walking until they are old enough to walk alone.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol impair your ability to pay attention to the road, affect balance while walking, and can impact your decision-making. Nearly half of all accidents involving pedestrians involve alcohol, with 34% involving an intoxicated pedestrian.
Driving or Cycling Near Pedestrians
Here are some tips that drivers and cyclists should follow when pedestrians are nearby:
The best way to prevent an accident is to remain alert at all times. Pay attention to and follow speed limits, and be aware of where pedestrians are. Lower speed limits typically indicate high-density areas with many pedestrians.
Drive Slow Near Schools
Some areas, like school districts and town centers, have higher populations of pedestrians, many of them children. Kids are more likely to dart in front of a car or not look both ways before crossing, so be sure to drive slowly and be prepared to make a sudden stop if necessary.
Pay Attention to Crosswalks
Vehicles and bikes should always yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk. When approaching a crosswalk, make sure to slow down and look to see if any pedestrians are waiting to cross. Pedestrians may cross without looking, especially while using their phone, making it vital you remain alert. It’s also important to take into account that some people, like the elderly or disabled, walk slower than others and may take longer to cross. Be patient and anticipate a longer wait before continuing.
Use Bike Paths and Lanes
Many cities and towns have bike paths and lanes to encourage cyclists to stay off the sidewalks where pedestrians walk. Where possible, follow bike paths and lanes to avoid hitting pedestrians.
Never Drive or Bike Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol impair judgment and reflex time, and can lead to serious accidents. It is illegal and incredibly dangerous to operate a vehicle while under the influence. Never drive a car or ride a bike while intoxicated or after taking drugs, as this puts your own life and the lives of pedestrians and other road users at risk.
What to Do If an Accident Happens
No matter how careful you are, some accidents can’t be prevented. If you are involved in an accident as a pedestrian or witness a pedestrian being hit by a vehicle, the most important thing to do is to stay calm and act quickly and responsibly.
If you are hit by a car and aren’t incapacitated, move out of the road and away from further danger. Call 911 as soon as possible or ask someone nearby to call for you. Even if you think you’re fine, it’s recommended that you go to the ER or visit your doctor to make sure you don’t have hidden injuries.
If you witness an accident, call 911 immediately. Try to keep the injured person calm and, where possible, prevent the driver from leaving the scene as this is a felony. Never try to move an injured person unless it’s necessary to remove them from further danger, as this could make their injuries worse.
When the police arrive, explain calmly and clearly what happened, providing as much detail as possible. This will help determine who is at fault. If you were involved, exchange information with the driver to help with future insurance claims.
Pedestrian Safety Statistics
Traffic accidents are very common. Every day in the U.S., around 430 people are treated in the ER for injuries resulting from traffic accidents involving pedestrians. Every two hours, a person will die from related injuries.
Some pedestrians are at greater risk than others. Teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 29 are more likely to be treated for injuries from crashes, but the risk of dying in a traffic accident increases with age.
In 2013, almost three quarters of pedestrian fatalities occurred in cities as opposed to rural areas. This can be explained in part by the higher volume of pedestrians in urban locations. Cities like Palm Bay and Orlando in Florida have higher rates of accidents than other cities because more people walk to work year-round.
Pedestrian-related incidents make up about 15% of all traffic accidents. You can reduce your risk of being involved in an accident by following simply safety tips and being careful around vehicles while out walking.