Walking not only gets you from point A to point B, but it's also a great way to get some exercise. Unfortunately, it also makes you the most vulnerable user of the road.
Each year thousands of pedestrians are killed and many more seriously injured across the United States. So whatever your destination, it's good to take some simple steps to keep you and your family safe.
When You're 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, 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. Watch and follow the pedestrian signal, not the traffic signal.
- Avoid texting and using the internet on your phone while walking as it may distract you from obstacles in your path. When crossing a street avoid cellphone use completely, as you need all of your senses to keep you safe from traffic danger.
- Watch out for parked vehicles. Parking lots can be especially dangerous as most drivers have a limited view when backing out.
- Use caution around driveways and alley entrances. Drivers are often not expecting anyone to be walking there and extra attention is required.
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 cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reading a map, or changing the radio station only makes it more difficult and dangerous.
- 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.
- The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Offers several training courses to provide technical assistance in developing pedestrian safety action plans and improving conditions for walking.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Offers a child pedestrian safety curriculum that teaches pedestrian safety for students in kindergarten through 5th grade. Also available is a checklist that helps you determine how walkable your community is.
Remember, awareness is always key no matter how you get around. A little common sense and good judgment can help everyone safely share the road.
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