By: Katie Behrens
As the vibrant hues of autumn leaves paint the streets and sidewalks, October brings with it not just the promise of pumpkin-spiced lattes, cozy blankets, and football but also a vital cause for celebration and awareness. October is National Pedestrian Safety Month, a dedicated time to emphasize the importance of pedestrian safety. While pedestrian safety is a year-round concern, this designated month serves as a crucial reminder of the need for vigilance and education to prevent accidents and protect lives.
Why Pedestrian Safety Matters
Pedestrian safety is a matter of life and death. The Governors Highway Safety Association projects that 7,508 people were killed while walking in 2022, the most pedestrians killed since 1981 when 7,837 pedestrians were killed. This statistic is a somber reminder that walking is not without its dangers. It’s crucial to understand why pedestrian safety matters so much:
- Promoting Active Lifestyles: Walking is a fundamental form of exercise and a sustainable mode of transportation. Encouraging pedestrian safety supports healthier communities by promoting active lifestyles and reducing pollution.
- Economic Impact: Accidents involving pedestrians can lead to significant medical expenses, legal fees, and property damage claims, which can have a far-reaching economic impact.
- Emotional Toll: Beyond the statistics and dollars, pedestrian accidents have a profound emotional toll on families and communities. Preventing these accidents is not just a matter of statistics; it’s about saving lives and preserving emotional well-being.
Tips for Pedestrian Safety
During National Pedestrian Safety Month, it’s important to remind ourselves of the key practices and principles that can keep us safe when we’re out and about. Here are some tips for pedestrians and drivers alike:
- Enhance Your Visibility: Ensure you’re easily seen by drivers, especially during nighttime hours. Wear vibrant or reflective attire and keep a flashlight handy.
- Utilize Sidewalks: Always walk on a sidewalk and not the side of the road when available. If no sidewalk is present walk in the direction of (against) traffic and walk as close to the left side of the road as possible. When attempting to cross, always look left, right, and left again.
- Utilize Crosswalks Wisely: Prioritize the use of designated crosswalks, and if available, activate pedestrian signals (APS) or push buttons. When crossing streets, opt for intersections with crosswalks rather than in between intersections, unless you have the protection of RRFBS and HAWK systems. Before crossing, always look left, right, and left again.
- Stay Focused, Stay Safe: Avoid distractions from electronic devices while walking, as distracted pedestrians pose just as much risk as distracted drivers. Pocket your phone and remain vigilant. Make sure your head is up and you are able to see and notice what those around you are doing.
- Respect Traffic Signals: Adhere to traffic signals and pedestrian signal head messages signaling you to walk or not to walk. Listen for audible cues informing you how much time you have left to cross the intersection.
- Establish Visual Contact: Whenever possible, make eye contact with drivers and wait for them to signal your cross before stepping onto the road. At the very least, ensure they acknowledge your presence and have come to a stop before proceeding.
- Yield to Pedestrians: Always prioritize the safety of pedestrians by yielding the right of way at crosswalks and intersections. Exercise awareness, patience, and caution.
- Adhere to Speed Limits: In areas with heavy pedestrian presence, such as school zones and city centers, reduce your speed to ensure everyone’s safety. Anticipate unlawful crossing and j walking. Always try to be more aware of pedestrians than they are of you.
- Avoid Distractions: Just as with pedestrians, distracted driving poses significant risks. Stay off your phone, refrain from eating or grooming, limit distractions from passengers within your car, and maintain an unwavering focus on the road.
- Vigilantly Check Blind Spots: Before making turns or changing lanes, carefully check your blind spots (not just side and rearview mirrors) for any pedestrians who may be crossing or walking on the road.
- Honoring Pedestrian Signals: Refrain from attempting to rush through intersections where pedestrians have the right of way. Make sure you obey all signs signaling you to yield to pedestrians and cyclists.
National Pedestrian Safety Month is a poignant reminder that we are all pedestrians, and everyone deserves to arrive home safely. By collectively embracing pedestrian safety as a shared responsibility, we can reduce accidents, save lives, and pave the way for safer, healthier communities. Let this October be the month we recommit to walking safely and making our roads safer for everyone.