Walking dead: Life-saving pedestrian safety tips
Each year thousands of pedestrians die in traffic-related crashes while walking along highways and intersections. Now a study sheds light on who is the most vulnerable group of people affected by these crashes, while we provide tips on how to stay safe while walking.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that death rates for men aged 75 years or older were more than double those of people under 34 years old. Further, death rates for women 75 years or older were more than double those of people under 64 years old. Some reasons behind the higher rates are because older pedestrians generally cross intersections more slowly, plus reduced vision, hearing and slower reaction time are also factors. Their frailty too can be a factor as observed with motorcycle crashes where older drivers are shown to be vulnerable to more severe injuries.
The CDC study looked at pedestrian fatalities from 2001-2010 and found that 47,392 pedestrians (32,873 males and 14,519 females) died in traffic-related crashes in that time. The study also found that by ethnicity, American Indians/Alaska Natives had the highest pedestrian death rates, as well as people living in large metro areas.
Pedestrian deaths are a major highway safety issue. While fatalities have dropped significantly since 1975, they still represent 14 percent of all roadway fatalities. In 2011 4,432 pedestrians died.
How to improve safety
A number of solutions are available to change roads and intersections to help reduce fatalities, and cities around the country are looking into their feasibility. Some include brighter lighting and signs and moving bus stops away from intersections.
Studies have found that high-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) traffic signals allow pedestrians to be more visible to motorists and have been effective at reducing crashes. These signals alert drivers to stop at crosswalks and are activated by pedestrians and remain dark when no one is crossing. Extending the time for pedestrians to cross an intersection can be helpful as well, especially for older pedestrians. Countdown signals can reduce crashes in urban intersections.
Now that the warm weather is here, more pedestrians will be out and about. Here are some tips from the New York City Department for the Aging to make your next foot journey a safe one.
- Walk on sidewalks. If you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic. Stop at the curb before entering the street.
- Cross only at street corners, preferably those with a traffic light and within marked crosswalks.
- Pay attention to “Walk/Don’t Walk” signals. They are there for a reason.
- Give yourself the most time to cross by waiting for a newly turned green light or walk signal.
- Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street. Be on the lookout for turning or reversing vehicles.
- Keep scanning for vehicles as you cross.
- Hold your hand up or do whatever it takes to make yourself more visible to drivers.
- Avoid walking in the dark and during bad weather such as snow, ice, rain or fog.
- Make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of a vehicle. Stay out of the driver’s blind spot.
- Walk and cross with other pedestrians wherever possible.
- Listen for the engine noises of backing vehicles and look for white reverse lights when you’re in a parking lot, near a driveway, or crossing mid-block between cars.
- Wear light or bright-colored or reflective clothing, especially after dusk. Use a flashlight if you walk at night.
- Wear proper and well-maintained footwear.
- Don’t text and walk.