Even if you usually drive to your destination, everyone is a pedestrian at some point – maybe walking your child across the street to the bus stop or walking to a grocery store down the road to buy dinner. That means each of us has a personal reason for wanting to keep our streets safe for all who use them.
In a crash between a vehicle and a pedestrian, the pedestrian is far more likely to be killed or injured. For this reason, the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) is partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in October for National Pedestrian Safety Month.
“We are called to treat others the way we would want to be treated, and that means being as cautious when you are a driver as you would want other drivers to be when you or your children are pedestrians,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Common-sense habits, especially putting your phone down while driving or walking, can save dozens of Kentuckians’ lives every year.”
“We’re asking both motorists and pedestrians to practice safe behaviors while driving and walking in order to prevent crashes, injuries and deaths on our roadways,” said Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray. “It’s a shared responsibility that helps all road users arrive at their destinations safely.”
According to NHTSA, approximately 17 percent of people killed in roadway-related incidents are pedestrians, which equates to one every 84 minutes.
KOHS Acting Executive Director Jason Siwula says a common theme for both pedestrians and motorists is distraction.
“It has unfortunately become all too common to see both drivers and pedestrians distracted by using a cell phone,” said Siwula. “No matter if you are walking or driving, putting away your phone should be automatic. No one is able to safely interact with other road users while distracted.”
Staying alert is especially important as the end of Daylight Saving Time approaches and it gets dark earlier. According to NHTSA, most crash-related pedestrian fatalities occur at night.
“Adjusting to the new low-light environment can take time, and that puts everyone – especially pedestrians – at greater risk of death or injury,” said Siwula. “Wearing bright, reflective clothing will help keep pedestrians visible.”
Last year in Kentucky there were 74 pedestrian deaths; 60 occurred after dark. So far this year, there have been 58 pedestrian deaths, 40 of which occurred after dark.
“There are many actions that both pedestrians and motorists can take in order to share the road safely,” said Siwula. “Remember – everyone is a pedestrian. If we all work together, we can save lives.”
The KOHS and NHTSA recommend the following:
- Use crosswalks when available. Avoid jaywalking and crossing between parked vehicles.
- Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If you must walk on the street, walk facing traffic.
- Don’t depend on the traffic signal to protect you. Motorists may be distracted, especially when adjusting to the nighttime travel environment.
- Increase visibility, especially at night. Carry a flashlight, wear reflective clothing or attach reflective materials – such as fluorescent tape – to clothing, backpacks, purses and briefcases. These materials reflect light from headlights back to drivers, making it easier to see you.
- Just because you can see a motorist does not mean the motorist can see you. If you cannot make eye contact or do not see the driver slow down for you, wait until the vehicle passes, even if you have the right of way.
- Pay attention. Distraction changes the way you walk, react and behave, including safety-related behaviors.
- Use caution if intoxicated. While you may be doing the right thing by not drinking and driving, risk still exists. Alcohol and drugs affect judgment, balance and reaction time, so always make a plan for a safe ride home.
- Put the phone down and pay attention. Driving while distracted increases risk for all road users.
- Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Be especially careful at intersections when turning onto another street.
- Keep your windshield, windows and mirrors clean so you can scan the road ahead and establish a “visual lead.”
- Obey the speed limit. Driving at the posted limit allows you to see, identify and react in time to brake for pedestrians.
- Slow down and turn on your headlights during evening hours when you need more time to see a pedestrian in your path.
- Be aware in neighborhoods and school zones. Children are often the smallest pedestrians, making them harder to see. Additionally, younger children may dart into intersections without understanding the dangers.
- Drive sober. As with pedestrians, alcohol and drugs affect judgment, balance and reaction time. Always make a plan for a safe ride home.
- Buckle up. Wearing a seat belt gives you the best protection against injury and death.
Visit www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/pedestrian-safety for more information.