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Become a Safer Pedestrian Today, Avoid Becoming a Number in a Statistic

Regardless of how many miles you drive in a day, you are still a pedestrian at some point of that day. While you may not realize it, you are lucky to be alive, as many pedestrians die each year after getting hit by vehicles. In the U.S. alone, over 6,250 people died that way in 2019. This guide is meant to help you and others from becoming part of such statistics.
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A concerning fact is that pedestrian deaths have risen by 51 percent since 2009, and 75 percent of deaths in vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes occurred at night or in poorly lit areas.

At this point, you may think that those incidents involve speeding and bad luck, but there are families out there who lost a toddler because of someone reversing out of a parking spot in a dark parking lot before parking sensors or reverse cameras became a thing.

Did this get your attention? Stay with me here, as being a safe pedestrian involves paying attention to things, mostly to your surroundings. First, if you use headphones, do not use them on their maximum volume setting while walking outdoors.

It would be great if you had your ears open and attentive to what is around you, but a lower volume in a set of headphones is better than blasting your favorite band at max volume while jaywalking, so we will go with a lower volume whenever instead.

In many cases, accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles can be avoided if you just stop, take a good look around you while listening for sirens, tire screeches, loud exhausts, and only then decide if you proceed further.

Be sure to look both ways, even on a one-way street. That is a tip from personal experience, but it has saved my bones at least twice to this day.

If there are pedestrian crossings or traffic lights with pedestrian crossings nearby (you can spot them from a distance), use those, even if they involve more walking. It is worthwhile.

Proceed with caution even if the light is green for pedestrians, as there may be vehicles approaching at speed who have disregarded the traffic light. While it is your right to pass when the light is green for pedestrians, that does not guarantee that every vehicle on that road will stop in time to ensure that happens.

If there is a path meant for pedestrians near the road you need to walk on, where vehicles cannot go, use that one whenever you can. Also, if you have just stepped out of your vehicle in the parking lot of a supermarket or an office building, presume that you are invisible to others, and be sure to look both ways before crossing the street.

Every driveway and alley should be treated with the same care while crossing as a roadway. If there is a way for a vehicle to get there, there might be one trying to cross the next time you carelessly walk on.

Getting hit by a car is painful, and it will require medical attention, but there is no guarantee that the injuries suffered in a minor incident in the parking lot will not affect you for longer than you could imagine.

My father was struck by a vehicle more than a decade ago, and he still experiences pain in his knee. The driver's regret did not alleviate the pain in any way.

However, if there is no path for pedestrians, stick to the side of the road while facing oncoming traffic. This is done so that you can see what the vehicles that are coming your way are doing, and it helps you to be a bit more vigilant.

Moreover, during the night, if your clothes are not reflective, drivers will not be able to see you, so at least you could see them coming. Try to have at least one item of clothing or accessory on you that is fluorescent or reflective, and be sure to choose reflective gear for your kids, even if they are not supposed to be out at night.

Teach your kids how to cross the street, and be sure they understand what is going on and why. Although my folks taught me how to cross the street, I still risked my life numerous times in my youth while running across a busy road.

I am extremely fortunate to be alive today, despite poor road crossing behavior during childhood and early teen years. My biggest fortune at the time was in the form of lower speeds employed on the roads that I ran across due to older, less powerful cars being used, along with calmer drivers.

If you really have no choice but to cross the road where there is no pedestrian crossing, never do it in a curve, at the crest of a hill, or at the end of a long descent.

Be aware of the position of the Sun, as well as the direction of the sunlight, as there is a chance that it might affect the visibility on the road for drivers, and they may not see you. If unsure, do not try to cross the road there.

Always cross the road in a section where it is straight, so never after or just before a corner. As you might have observed with pedestrian crossings, they are placed in certain positions. Make sure you can see incoming vehicles both ways before you attempt to cross the road.

Wait for traffic to pass if the road is unusually busy when you need to cross it. Running into traffic will not make your crossing safer but more dangerous. It is an accident waiting to happen, and getting hit by a car can be fatal or will bring life-altering injury. The risk is not worth it, ever.

Mind you, before stepping foot on the road itself, try to have maximum visibility. That means never attempting to cross the road from behind a bus or a truck, or in front of a stationary one, for that matter. Drivers will see the truck, acknowledge its position, and will move their view to the road ahead, and only those who had a few near misses in their lives will be extra cautious near bus stops, for example.

The main idea here is to never rely on the reflexes of drivers when you are a pedestrian. Do not assume they are going to stop or that they have seen you. In most cases, they have not. Do not bet your life on someone else's visual acuity and reflexes.

Sadly, brake lights are on the back of vehicles, and you will not get to see them light up, but most vehicles will tend to “lean in” towards the front during braking. Heavy braking will accentuate that, but do not try to cross the road when you see a vehicle coming your way with its tires squealing; wait for it to come to a full stop.

Even if the said vehicle has made a full stop in front of the pedestrian crossing, be sure that the other lanes do not have vehicles speeding towards the point where you are about to be if you start crossing.

All the checks above must be done in milliseconds, but doing them right and not looking at your smartphone right before crossing the road, not to mention during it, will help keep you safe.

Likewise, if a large vehicle has stopped at a pedestrian crossing without a traffic light, but you cannot see after it, presume that there is a vehicle in the next lane and proceed with caution. Be sure to look before stepping, and always proceed with a moderate-to-brisk walk, but never run while crossing the road. Also, do not stop when crossing, as you are in the middle of the road.

Running while crossing the road is extremely dangerous because there is a risk you might trip and fall right into traffic or that there are vehicles approaching on what appears to be an empty bit of road, but a pedestrian suddenly jumps in front. Do you see where this is going? Great, because they did not get to see the pedestrian, and a crash occurred or was just barely avoided.

Never assume that a driver has seen you or that they will manage to stop. While they are slowing down, look behind them. If there is another vehicle speeding towards them?

Wait for it to slow down, or otherwise, you risk becoming a hood ornament for the driver that has seen you but was pushed on the pedestrian crossing by the vehicle behind it. Yes, I have seen that happen.

Even with full eye contact with the driver of the vehicle that is slowing down to let you cross, you are not entirely safe. Moreover, just because a driver has used his lights or hand signals to let you know that they have spotted you, and they are slowing down for you to cross it does not mean that all drivers on that road have the same plan.

It is always better to be slow and safe here than just rushing blindly into the road because it is your right to cross the street at a pedestrian crossing. While that is what the law says, physics and reality work differently, so do not push your luck.

Speaking of risk, if you have had a few drinks or are feeling a bit queasy for whatever reason, do not try to walk home. Inebriated pedestrians can get into trouble fast. Use public transport or a ride-hailing service (taxis included) to get home instead of "walking it off."

If you plan ahead, as you should before going out of the house, you ought to have enough money on you for the fare. Have a friend pick you up, or have one in your group to be the designated driver. Both are just as good, if not even better. Return the favor on the next occasion, as they might have just saved your life without knowing it.

Sadly, even if everyone in the world reads this guide, accidents are going to happen, so just do yourself (and your family) a favor and do not become a statistic.



Editor's note:

For illustration purposes, the photo gallery includes images of Autonomous Emergency Braking systems with a Pedestrian detection function. 

The videos embedded at the end of the article show general tips that are applicable reglardless of how old the videos are.

 
 
 
 
 

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