Tips to Avoid Pedestrian Injury
More than 4,200 pedestrians were killed or injured by motorists in the U.S. last year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Pedestrians who survive being struck by a moving vehicle are often subjected to months of rehabilitation and lost work time, in addition to skyrocketing medical costs. Vehicle operators who cause a pedestrian injury or fatality face higher insurance premiums, court settlements, and the possibility of jail time and a suspended license in the case of negligence.
As in many states, Indiana law gives the pedestrian the right-of-way in most traffic situations. Even in cases where the pedestrian does not have the right-of-way, however, drivers should be attentive at all times to avoid striking a pedestrian. Here are a few tips for both pedestrians and drivers to safeguard both pedestrians and drivers.
Tips for Pedestrians
- Obey traffic signals. A 2011 change to Indiana law removes a pedestrian’s right-of-way when that pedestrian is going against traffic signals. This means if you rush across the street while the light is flashing “Don’t walk,” you are breaking the law. Don’t assume all drivers will yield to pedestrians. Also, always use designated crosswalks for crossing busy streets. Jaywalking is not only a traffic violation, it puts both pedestrians and drivers in danger.
- Avoid distractions. If you’re in the habit of checking your cell phone every few minutes while you’re walking down a busy street or, even worse, texting and walking, try to break the habit. In the few seconds it takes you to look down at your screen, a car could turn a corner and hit you. This is equally true for carrying on a conversation while walking outdoors. It’s easy to become caught up in the conversation and forget to look both ways before crossing the street. Ideally, your full concentration should be on your surroundings
- Look both ways before you cross. This is something your parents probably told you from a young age, but it’s easy for busy professionals to forget those early lessons. This is especially true if you walk through a certain area each day. Force yourself to stop and look both ways before crossing the street, even if you’re surrounded by people who are crossing.
- Always walk facing traffic. There tends to be confusion about whether pedestrians should walk with or against traffic. Safety experts say it’s best to walk against traffic, which gives both the pedestrian and driver equal opportunity to see each other. If sidewalks are provided, stay on the sidewalk as much as possible. If not, use the shoulder of the road and stay as far away from traffic as you can.
- Be visible. If your walk is planned, wear bright clothing in order to call as much attention to yourself as possible. This is especially important when walking at night or early in the morning. In those cases, it’s safest to carry safety reflectors or wear reflective clothing. If reflectors aren’t readily available, consider carrying a flashlight.
Tips for Drivers
- Slow down at crosswalks. Despite the above-mentioned change in Indiana traffic laws, many pedestrians still tend to cross during the “Don’t walk” signal. Always slow down and watch for pedestrians when nearing a crosswalk. Additionally, if you’re in an area with heavy foot traffic, watch for jaywalkers as well.
- Don’t text and drive. Other cars aren’t the only thing you might hit while sending a text. Avoid picking up your phone at all while driving, even if it’s to send a voice text or hit “thumbs up” on the latest track on Pandora. A pedestrian can come from out of nowhere in the second or two you’re looking at your phone.
- Obey speed limits. In neighborhoods and other areas with high probabilities of pedestrian traffic, speed limits are often lowered to 30 miles per hour or less. Instead of disregarding these signs in your rush to get to work, obey the posted speed limits.
- If visibility is low, slow down. Whether it’s fog, precipitation, or dark driving conditions that limit your ability to see, it’s always best to proceed with caution. A pedestrian can suddenly dart into traffic and if you can only see a couple of feet in front of you, you won’t see that pedestrian until too late.
- Look both ways before pulling into traffic. As you pull up to an intersection and prepare to turn right, you can easily become so focused on the traffic to your left that you forget about pedestrians who might be crossing to your right. Once you see that you can pull out, make it a habit to also look to your right, even if you’re in an area where pedestrians are uncommon.
By following a few safety tips, both drivers and pedestrians can stay safe. It’s important to also share these tips with your children, whether they’re pedestrians or new drivers. Cell phones have brought new distractions into the mix, causing the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities to increase in recent years.