In the United States over 2,125 pedestrians were killed in the first half of 2014 alone and the annual death rate has increased at least 15% each year since 2009. Over this time period there was, on average, one crash-related pedestrian death every two hours. Pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. for kids between the ages of 5 and 19. Since so many of these deaths are children it is important that we take the time to educate our youth on the risks involved in walking where there is traffic. While the pedestrian usually has the legal right of way, no one should ever assume the driver will give it to you.
Kids should be taught at an early age to look both ways before crossing the street with an easy to remember rhyme: Stop, look and listen before you cross the street. Use your eyes, use your ears, before you use your feet.
With teenagers, it is especially important to communicate walking without looking at or listening to their phone or other electronic device. If they must use their phone then show them how to easily find a safe place to talk and finish their conversation before continuing to walk.
The most common pedestrian deaths happen at night, urban areas, and non-intersection areas. Pedestrians can reduce their risk of injury or death by making sure they are clearly visible. Wearing bright, reflective clothing especially on the arms and legs (which are moving quicker than the torso), carrying a flashlight or wearing a headlamp will increase visibility to drivers. Approximately half of all crashes that result in the death of a pedestrian are caused by alcohol-induced impairment, either for the driver or pedestrian. Alcohol impairs decision-making skills, reflexes, and other abilities that could keep you safe.
About 83% of child pedestrian deaths occur outside of an intersection. Whenever possible, pedestrians should cross the street at designated crosswalks or intersections. If a sidewalk is not available then a person should walk on the shoulder and facing traffic. Each child is different, but typically most kids under the age of 10 are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming traffic and therefore should only cross the street with an adult.
Adults and older teenagers should be good role models by setting examples for younger children. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and be sure to communicate what you are doing and why you’re doing it. Show kids to be especially careful of cars that are backing up or turning. They need to know that just because a car is parked or stopped does not mean it isn’t potentially dangerous. Children need to know not to run into the street or between parked cars.
Many schools have a “Safe Route to School” program where parents and faculty will map out and establish the safest route for children to get to and from school. Reach out to your local PTA or principal to find out if your child’s school has something like this. These programs try to identify issues with various routes and find solutions to make them safer for children who have no other choice to get to class.
Be the example to anyone who might look up to you by taking your headphones out when walking around cars. When driving, put cell phones and any other potential distractions out of sight until you are at your destination. Stay alert and slow down while driving where pedestrians and children are present. Be aware of bikers or runners who may be distracted or may step into your path unexpectedly. Give pedestrians the right of way and look both ways before turning. Walking is a very efficient way to get to your destination and should be enjoyable and relaxing, but it is important for people not to become complacent while walking.