Pedestrian Safety: How to Prevent Injuries when Walking, Biking, or Driving

Going for a hike, walk, run, or bike ride outside might be just what you need to increase your energy, boost your mood, raise your heart rate, and improve your overall health. Research shows that moving our bodies outside in the fresh air can help reduce anxiety and depression, enhance the quality of sleep, improve blood sugar levels, and increase our overall feelings of happiness and satisfaction, even more than exercising indoors.

Whether that means commuting to work by bike, walking downtown to run some errands, going for a stroll with your pup, or clocking in a couple of miles on a run, you deserve to be safe while exercising outdoors in any weather and in any amount of daylight. We all have a responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe on the roads we all share, so continue reading for some safety tips that can help you enjoy some fresh air without any worries.

Man biking in a suit, carrying a legal briefcase.

What Can Walkers Do?

In 2017, almost 6000 pedestrians died in car-related crashes, making pedestrian deaths more common than anyone would like to admit.1 By no means do I mean to say that walking is an unsafe activity, rather that it’s essential to be aware of and visible to drivers when walking. Reduce your risk of injury as a walker by following these simple guidelines.

  • Pay attention. Look up from your phone and be aware of your surroundings. Remove headphones so you can hear traffic coming. Pedestrian deaths are on the rise because we’re absorbed in our phones and are masking our senses.1 Keep your head up and look ahead when you’re walking, rather than looking down at your feet or your phone.
  • Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible, and cross at crosswalks. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road toward traffic so that you’re visible to oncoming vehicles. If a crosswalk is not available, you can cross at other locations, but know that as a walker you don’t have the right of way when not in a crosswalk.
  • Wear high visibility clothes. Bright yellow reflective jackets are the best option for making yourself more visible. Wearing reflectors and/or lights on all sides of your body is also very helpful. You could also carry a flashlight.
  • Assume they can’t see you. Sometimes weather, sunlight or low lighting, glares, or other distractions can make it hard for a driver to see a pedestrian, even if you think you’re easy to see. Wait to cross until a car has stopped completely and has indicated they see you.

What can Bicyclists Do?

  • Follow the rules of the road. Bicyclists are not pedestrians, but rather slow-moving vehicles. Act like a car when riding your bicycle by following all the same rules of the road. Stop at all stop signs and stoplights. Don’t ride on the sidewalk. Always ride in the direction of traffic.
  • Ride in the direction of traffic. Let me emphasize this one more time. Never ride against traffic or on the sidewalk. Remember, “walk left and bike right.”
  • Be predictable. Drivers get confused when bicyclists weave around parked cars in the shoulder or when they don’t seem to be following a clear path. Crashes are much less likely if bikers follow a predictable route. Additionally, make sure you signal before merging into another lane, making a turn, or stopping.
  • Shine on. Always have a solid bright white light in the front of your bike that can be seen from 500 feet away, as well as a flashing red light in the back of your bike. Wearing reflective and high visibility gear also helps drivers see you in the dark.
  • Wear a helmet. This is non-negotiable. Wear your helmet with the straps secured every time you ride your bike. The helmet should be just a centimeter or two above your eyebrows, and the chin strap should be tight enough that you can only fit one or two fingers between the strap and your chin.

What Can Drivers Do?

Pedestrian safety doesn’t just apply to walkers and bikers. Drivers have a huge responsibility of keeping everyone safe when they drive. Drivers should familiarize themselves with road rules and laws regarding pedestrians and bikers, as well as how to be a safe driver.

  • Remove all distractions. Stay completely off your phone while driving. Turn the music down or off. Don’t eat while driving so that you have both hands available. Be attentive to the road at all times.
  • Be sober. The majority of pedestrian-vehicle crashes happen when a motor vehicle driver is under the influence of alcohol or another drug. Don’t ever drive while drinking, smoking, or taking any drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth the reminder. It’s harder to stop short to prevent a collision if you’re driving fast.
  • Keep a lookout for pedestrians. Remember that pedestrians can cross anywhere on the road, but they only have the right of way at crosswalks. They might also be walking on the shoulder of the road when there is no sidewalk.
  • Be a defensive driver. You can prevent crashes by practicing the defensive driving skills we all learned in driver’s ed way back when.

If you’re looking for extra visibility gear or helmets, contact SEARHC’s Safety Shop at safetyshop@searhc.org or 907.966.8736 for low-cost options.

Don’t let the darkness or rainy weather keep you inside. Just make sure you’re safe about it!

 

References:

  1. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/safety-topics/distracted-walking

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