Walk often; Walk Safely

Photo credit: Seth Nenstiel

Photo credit: Seth Nenstiel

Walking is a great source of exercise and physical activity! I walk regularly for both fitness and as a mode of travel.  You can imagine my surprise when, yesterday, following a meeting about pedestrian and bike safety, I was hit by a car.  A driver ran a red light causing another vehicle to swerve and beep and make a lot of noise.  I proceeded to then cross at a cross walk (during the walking signal) and was blindsided by a driver who turned right on red.  She had been distracted by the other two vehicles.  It is a very odd sensation to be hit unexpectedly, propelled into the air, rolled off of a windshield and thumped into the middle of the road.  Odder still are the thoughts that run through the brain at lightening speed:

“I hope the car stops and doesn’t roll over me. Damn, I just bought that Green Bean coffee. We have to teach people to look out for walkers. I’m gonna be really late for my meeting with Mayor Bracey.”

I was very lucky.  My knee is a bit of a mess, but remarkably I have no upper body aches or pains and no broken bones. I 100% attribute this to the fact that I exercise daily.  Strength training and power yoga, part of my weekly routine, strengthen the muscles, connective tissue and bones while providing flexibility.  I am so grateful that I am not hurt more severely.

Which leads me to the purpose of this blog.  Walking IS an important form of exercise and a great mode of transportation.  But we need to have safer conditions.  Pedestrians are hit by cars for one of a few reasons: the walker unexpectedly steps into a line of traffic,  a vehicle driver is not paying attention to all surroundings or pedestrians and drivers don’t know the “rules of the road”.  Unfortunately, many pedestrians do not obey walking safety rules, popping out between parked cars to cross a roadway in the middle of a block.  Many drivers are distracted by cell phones, texting, reading app maps, changing music tracks.  Other drivers just don’t know or abide by the rules regarding cross walks and stop lights/signs.  If everyone is more aware of pedestrian safety, I am certain that we will have less walker injuries and fatalities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides great tips for both pedestrians and drivers to remain safe while sharing the road.

When you are walking:

Photo credit: Seth Nenstiel

Photo credit: Seth Nenstiel

  • Be predictable.  Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
  • If there is not sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
  • Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
  • Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible.  This is where drivers expect pedestrians.  Look for cars in all directions – including those turning left or right.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic.  Wait for a time gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
  • Never assume a driver sees you.  Make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.
  • Be visible at all times.  Wear bright clothing during the day, wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and judgment.

When you are driving:

  • Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times.  Safety is a shared responsibility.
  • Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk.  There may be people crossing that you can’t see.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street.
  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present.
  • Be extra cautious when backing up- pedestrians can move in your path.

Download a copy of  Everyone is a Pedestrian and visit the NHTSA website for more safety tips.  Keep walking and be safe!

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