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. Diana Amsden, Ph.D. says

    MEET A STOPPED DRIVER’S EYES BEFORE CROSSING IN FRONT OF HIM
    I drove into a store parking lot, parked, and got out of my car.
    An SUV coming down the parking lane stopped.
    Visibility was such I could not see the driver’s face, but I assumed he had stopped for me.
    I was halfway across when he started up.
    His bumper broke my knee, his hood my wrist, and I landed on my back, cracking my sacrum top to bottom. My head hit as hard, but my French twist cushioned me or I would be dead.
    The disabled veteran senior driver said he had been watching people over on the sidewalk.
    Four surgeries, two months in hospital and skilled nursing facility, finally home, on a cane,

  2. Frank McMullen says

    Good advice ! But I live in Central Florida & the 5 most dangerous places for Pedestrians & cyclist in the US are within 0- 100 miles of my residence . I have almost been hit checking my mail box . I never check mail with my back to traffic & I do not live on a overly busy street . So my advise IS TO BE OVERLY VIGILANT & watch out for all the distracted drivers !

  3. Barry Childress says

    15% of our traffic fatalities are pedestrians. I’m am appalled that a company that deals with drivers and all the crashes that they do, that you decided to go victim blaming. It is careless drivers that do the killing, It is with drivers where distraction causes the most destruction.

    In Maryland drivers have the legal obligation not to hit pedestrians:

    § 21-504. (a) In general. — Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.

    For reduced crashing by drivers they need to follow the law. That includes not driving distracted, not speeding, stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks, both marked and unmarked (and using an unmarked crosswalk is not jaywalking. In fact the word jaywalking is not in the legal statues.)

    This is what you should be telling drivers, not oh if you hit a pedestrian we made something up that it might be their fault (not based in law or facts) but your insurance will still probably go up and you still might get hit with an wrongful death lawsuit.

  4. Dennis DePorter says

    You are a pedestrian in a hurry. The light is red to your benefit. Traffic is stopped. Its your lucky “go” especially since you are in a hurry. The stopped driver has looked to the right awaiting the green. Clear for driver. The driver looks left. Clear again for driver. Driver’s light turns green. Its a “go.” But you are on the go. To the driver you appear out of “No Where” just as driver accelerates. Oops. Pedestrian : don’t assume you were seen by the auto driver.

  5. David says

    Walking at night in urban or in the suburbs is very dangerous. I was walking at night across a busy intersection , in the crosswalk and with the pedestrian sign. The oncoming turning traffic had a green arrow. And a vehicle came right at me passed within 10ft, they never saw me in the crosswalk. I had thought that the turning traffic would have been held for me, not the case. Be very careful at night, the drivers either can’t see you or are not looking for you. I was very upset by this instance, be careful.