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Every day in the United States, an estimated 445 pedestrians seek emergency treatment for traffic-related injuries. In 2013, the most recent year data is available, there were 4,735 pedestrian fatalities and another 66,000 injuries. That’s about one pedestrian death every two hours, and one injury every eight minutes. If you are one of the tens of thousands of pedestrians injured every year as a result of a vehicle-related accident, there are critical steps you should take directly after the event that will help ensure your rights. But, avoiding an accident in the first place should be your focus. Here are some easy-to-follow tips on how to stay safe as a pedestrian.
Just because someone is driving a vehicle doesn’t mean he is paying close attention to the road. Distracted driving habits, including eating and cell phone use, lead to more than 3,300 fatalities a year, many of which involve pedestrians. Other factors, including vehicle blind spots and driver drowsiness, can also play a role in pedestrian-related accidents.
Instead of assuming that a driver can see you, make sure the road is clear before attempting to cross the street. If you’re in a particularly busy area, and waiting for traffic to clear isn’t plausible, make eye contact with any driver in your proximity before crossing the street, even when you have the right of way and are using a crosswalk.
Drivers are not the only people who can be distracted when they’re on the go. Pedestrians can be just as easily distracted. When you’re reading a text message, playing a game, or are otherwise engaged with your mobile device, you aren’t paying attention to your surroundings, and just as with a distracted driver, the results can be disastrous. When you are walking, put away your cell phone or tablet. If you must reply to a text, step to the side, out of the way of others, and then respond.
Follow the Law
Jaywalking is not only illegal, but it can be fatal. In fact, pedestrian noncompliance is the leading cause of injuries and fatalities. In 2013, 69% of all pedestrian fatalities occurred at non-intersections compared to 20% of fatalities occurring in an intersection, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The balance of the fatalities occurred in parking lanes, driveways, roadsides, and other locations. When you need to cross the street, use the crosswalk, and never cross against the light.
The sidewalk is the safest place for pedestrians. Occasionally, however, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to walk somewhere, but no sidewalk is available. In that instance, walk as far onto the shoulder of the road as possible, and always walk facing traffic. If your back is to traffic, you won’t be able to see oncoming dangers, and you’ll be unable to avoid them.
If you’re walking at night, it is imperative that you wear light, bright, or reflective clothing, and carry a flashlight, even if you plan on staying on the sidewalk. At some point, you may have to cross the street, and if drivers cannot see you, they won’t be able to avoid you.
Pedestrian safety requires vigilance on the part of both the driver and the pedestrian. When you head out for a walk, always follow traffic laws, make sure drivers can see you, and pay attention to your surroundings. When you follow those simple tips, you’ll be increasing the odds that you will reach your destination safely.