Pedestrians of all ages are at risk of being hit and injured by a motor vehicle. Historically, male pedestrians are more likely to be injured than female pedestrians – and teen and young adult pedestrians are more likely to require medical treatment for crash related injuries than any other age group.
Children, however, are at the greatest risk of injury or death from motor vehicle collisions due to their smaller size, unfamiliarity with traffic rules and lack of experience judging distances and speeds. In fact, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, on average, 44 kids are hit by cars everyday in the United States – and five teen pedestrian are killed every week.
Pedestrians can help protect themselves – and prevent many of these tragic incidents – by following a few simple safety tips.
1. Be Present
In today’s fast paced environment, multi-tasking while moving from one place to another has become commonplace – talking on the phone, reading texts or playing Pokémon Go while walking is almost second nature. Unfortunately, walking while distracted is one of the leading causes of pedestrian-car collisions. Studies show that one in four teenagers are distracted when they walk across a road. Experts suggest we keep our phones down and heads up while walking to avoid collisions.
2. Cross At Designated Crosswalks
Although it may seem quicker (and easier) to cross at the point of shortest distance, it’s always safest – and the most legal – to cross the street at a designated crosswalk or, if there is no crosswalk, the intersection. Drivers expect to see pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections and are more alert for their presence at these locations – they aren’t expecting to see pedestrians in the middle of the street and often aren’t prepared to react to such an unexpected presence. Indeed, 76 percent of all pedestrian deaths occur where a pedestrian has crossed the street somewhere other than a crosswalk.
3. Wear Bright or Reflective Clothing After Dark
Daylight savings has ended and the days are getting shorter – which means it’s getting darker earlier. Sadly, studies show that 70 percent of teen pedestrian deaths happen when it’s dark. Keep this in mind if you or your kids will be out walking at dusk or after dark. If they’re walking home after school – or after basketball or volleyball practice – have them wear clothing that can be easily seen in low light, or even better, have a vest, stickers or other apparel with reflective properties. Make it easier for them to be seen – and for cars to avoid them.
4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Drivers are often careless and distracted – by their phones, the radio, their passengers. It’s important to keep this in mind when walking. Cars may not always be looking out for you, so you need to look out for them. Even at intersections, it’s important to look in all directions before crossing to make sure an inattentive driver isn’t on a collision course with your path.
5. Don’t Walk In the Road
This may seem self-evident, but you’d be surprised by how many teens and school-age kids walk in or near a traffic lane. If there’s a sidewalk, use it – sidewalks have been shown to reduce pedestrian-car collisions by as much as 90 percent. And if there isn’t a sidewalk, walk on the shoulder facing traffic (typically on the left side of the road), or as far away from traffic as possible – even if that means walking in the grass.
6. Watch Out For Cars Backing Up
In parking lots and driveways, make sure to watch out for cars that are backing up. When a pedestrian is distracted (when they’re not “present”) and in a driver’s blind spot, tragedy can ensue. Look for the white reverse lights on a car, and take mind of small children who don’t know how to watch for a car that’s backing up. Tragically, seven kids under the age of five are killed every month by a car that’s backing up in a driveway or parking lot.
By being an alert pedestrian – and a good role model for children young and old – you and your loved ones can avoid many of the missteps made by others. Stay safe and enjoy the fresh air!