From increasingly dense populations in urban areas to distracted drivers and bigger vehicles on the road, pedestrian safety concerns continue to mount across the country. According to a recent study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, 2018 saw the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in nearly three decades. In Missouri, pedestrian deaths increased by 5% between 2017 and 2018; in Kansas, fatalities increased by 33%.
Given these startling numbers, many cities have begun trying to make walking safer by installing or enhancing crosswalks and improving signs and signals. However, these safety measures do little when drivers fail to yield, making it essential that pedestrians remain vigilant when walking near or across traffic.
1. Stay visible
Drivers sometimes focus so much on other cars that they forget to look out for pedestrians. Wearing light- or bright-colored clothing helps to ensure that motorists notice you. It is also important to take extra precautions when walking at night, when about 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur. In addition to wearing reflective gear, consider carrying a flashlight, and make sure to cross the road in a well-lit area.
2. Do not rely on crosswalk signals
You should never assume that a motorist will stop, even if you are crossing with an illuminated WALK signal. Make eye contact with the driver to confirm that she or he sees you before entering the road, and be mindful of vehicles that may be turning. When crossing multiple lanes, make sure that all approaching cars have yielded the right of way.
3. Keep alert
Staying alert to your surroundings is essential. Avoid crossing the street while using a cell phone or listening to music, which could distract you from noticing potential hazards, and make sure to look to your left, right and left again to confirm that it is safe to cross.
4. Pay attention in parking lots
According to the National Security Council, 9% of pedestrian fatalities occur due to backup accidents in parking lots and garages. When walking among parked cars, make sure to pay attention to backup lights and engine sounds that could indicate a driver is about to depart.