Walk This Way: Pedestrian Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life

pedestrian crossing signs with flashlightsWe’re all pedestrians at some point, which means we all learn the same basic rules for crossing the street—look both ways, obey traffic signals and stay inside the crosswalk. Of course, technology and busier lifestyles have led to some new distractions, which mean navigating intersections requires a new level of alertness—especially when you’re on foot.

In fact, traffic accidents involving pedestrians are startlingly common: In 2015, pedestrian fatalities hit a seven-year high, with 2,368 people killed in the first six months of the year, compared with 2,232 during the same period in 2014, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Disregarding basic rules of the road for even a brief moment in busy, high-traffic areas can make you vulnerable to accidents.

While drivers remain responsible for looking out for pedestrians and keeping driving distractions at bay, these reminders for pedestrians could help you stay safe even when you’re not behind the wheel.

Stop Strolling and Texting

We often hear how cell phone use impairs drivers, but distracted use of smartphones by pedestrians directly contributes to accidents as well. In 2010, about 1,500 pedestrians were treated for emergency room accidents related to using their cell phones, according to a study from the Ohio State University. What’s more, when people used their cell phones while walking, they were 61 percent more likely to veer off course (read, outside the safe zone of the crosswalk), and 13 percent more likely to overshoot a target that researchers placed on the floor a few meters in front of them, which could easily have been a curb or stairway, finds one study. Put away your phone while walking, especially when crossing an intersection.

Walk in the Light

Most pedestrian traffic deaths occur in urban areas, in non-intersection locations, and at night, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you must walk at night, one solution is to amplify your presence. This incudes wearing light-colored clothing, reflective gear, and repurposing a smartphone as a flashlight, suggests Doug Hecox of the Federal Highway Administration. “Brightly colored clothing is helpful, but clothing with reflective materials or even clip-on light beacons, which are widely available, can help you stay visible to drivers,” says Hecox.

Stay in the Safe Zones

Sidewalks are safest. However, “there are many areas without sidewalks, and staying out of the roadway is a great rule of thumb for pedestrians. It isn’t always possible, which is why it is important for pedestrians to be mindful of their surroundings and to look out for drivers who may not see them. Darting out across the street from between cars is also unwise,” says Hecox.

In some cases, such as when walking with school-age children, taking a safe route, or a path with well-maintained infrastructure, designated walking lanes, good lighting and reduced speed limits, may be the best bet. Schools and local traffic organizations often map out safe routes, and there are even apps that allow pedestrians of all ages to determine the best walking routes. Bottom line: Countless accidents occur when pedestrians walk in undesignated areas, jaywalk, cross against the flow of traffic and otherwise use unsafe areas. Given the uptick in accidents in recent years, it’s risky to assume that drivers will always stop, and more pedestrians have died on roads or at intersections where there were no crosswalks.

No matter how you get to your destination, staying mindful is a must. “Pedestrians and drivers each have a responsibility to each other to be actively looking out for each other,” says Hecox.

“Personal safety is the responsibility of everyone.”

Stay protected whether you’re on foot or in the car. See how much you could save with a fast, free auto insurance quote from GEICO.

By Alizah Salario

Next article: 7 Ways to Avoid Road Rage

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  1. Wayne Thomas says

    One thing that is missing from your pedestrian safety tips is that people should walk on the left side of the road when there is no sidewalk so they can see traffic coming and take evasive action when necessary. This “common sense” rule was taught to children in the past, but it seems to have been dropped by the wayside in modern times.

  2. Jim Elmore says

    Just last week, in the rain, I came within ten feet of hitting a bicyclist who was riding at night in dark clothing and no lights visible; the adult was riding dead center in the only lane available. The speed limit was 25. He seemed not to care that he was nearly invisible and continued in my headlights. When he turned the corner when we came to an L turn, I could see he had a light on the front and some kind of light on the rear or under the seat that was blocked from the rear view…sigh. I was really shaken and caught visibility only at the last minute. I would not have been pleased to have hit and harmed him and some could have said it was my fault. Be safe out there!

  3. James says

    What about facing traffic when walking? I was taught this as a child, but daily see people walking with traffic. Often I see people who are walking strollers, as well, and they pay no attention to the cars coming from behind them. This seems like a simple way to add safety to a stroll outside, but so many people fail to do it.

    Pedestrians have a full responsibility to protect themselves. Relying on drivers to be 100% responsible for ones safety is not a smart move. It is call self-preservation. Your life is in your hands, and it should be, without a doubt.

    I walk daily, and have never been “almost” hit. I always assume that I must keep my eyes open, and be aware of all that is around me. I err on the side of protecting myself, every time I walk. Driver’s are NOT always to blame. They are just easy scapegoats. People need to care enough about themselves to take ownership of their own safety.

  4. Allen says

    There is one very important tip that was left out and that is to make sure that the drivers approaching you see you…Be sure to make eye contact before stepping in front of a car and don’t assume that they see you.

  5. Stephen Patchan says

    This blog post is insulting. If you want to promote safety for pedestrians, focus 100% on safe driving.
    Seriously, I’m considering an insurance switch based on this post.

    • Brian G says

      I agree that the responsibility lies 100% with the motorist, from a legal perspective. However as pedestrians we must realize that there are absolutely terrible drivers out there on the road and it does us no good to be buried 6 feet in the ground knowing that it was the other guys fault. We have to be careful and assume that every driver is out to get us.

  6. Eric McClure says

    The vast majority of pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries are caused by drivers who were speeding, failed to yield, or were distracted. Scapegoating victims rather than telling drivers to be traffic laws and pay attention is offensive.

    • Allen says

      Tell me why does a reckless pedestrian who causes their own injury or death by being ignorant by not taking responsibility for their actions make the driver responsible. My good friends mom hit a killed a girl who darted out in front of her trying to catch a bus going the opposite direction. Yes its a terrible situation but after spending $30,000 on lawyers fees after the prosecutor brought charges for involuntary manslaughter. Lucky for my friends mom three other drivers who witnessed the incident said their was absolutely no way for her avoid hitting the teenager and the charges were dropped. Unfortunately the incident left a scar on her mom and she never drove again.

  7. Sharon says

    We walk all the time, and bike.
    We’ve almost been hit by cars and bikes!
    Bikers don’t follow the rules, and should!
    Walkers don’t follow rules, and should.
    Drivers run lights wayy too much. Some drivers are so into the ride they are on they don’t see anything.
    Sad!
    Thanks for posting safety tips! We all need reminders!

  8. Joseph Ferrara says

    I walk a great deal ,almost been hit a number of times , especially by people making left turns trying to beat oncoming traffic. They have their suit of armor on and its very frustrating especially with weather elements like rain and snow, they are in their comfortable cars with their heat on and protected by their mass of steel. Also on one way streets people in their cars, only look one way the way the traffic is coming at them and then they carelessly make their quick turns not looking to see if a pedestrian is crossing a street, I try to watch their eyes but sometimes their so into themselves it doesn’t matter , it is very frustrating . Drivers do not stop for stop signs , they do not slow down when they see pedestrians present , and they pass red lights . What ever happened to loving your neighbor as yourself , drivers need to think how would they feel if they where the pedestrian. I am sure I have been guilty of these things as well I been driving for over 40 years , but it wasn’t until I have walked many times to work that I have realized how important it is to slow down and be courteous to a pedestrian with no armor on to protect themselves . Also I would have to say sometimes pedestrians do stupid things as well ,they have faults as well , but they have no protection , so drivers would be wise to yield the right of way even though they may feel they are in the right . So why don’t we all slow down and pay attention. One other thing , when a car stops in the middle of a cross walk he puts the pedestrian in danger , because sometimes the pedestrian has to walk into oncoming traffic which they can not see to get around the car in the cross walk , this happens especially with trucks , it is not to easy to see around big vehicles . So drivers be alert , because if you are not paying attention and not alert it could cost a life and its not going to be the drivers most likely and for the rest of your life you might be second guessing yourself saying if only , I drove a little slower , it only I looked more carefully , if only I came to a full stop ,and if only I didn’t speed up to beat the red light. Just care enough to love your neighbor as you love yourself .