With our car-centric infrastructure, the United States is not especially accommodating to those who want to explore cities on foot. Pedestrians navigating cities are faced with numerous hazards, from distracted drivers to insufficient crosswalks, making the simple act of walking a potentially dangerous endeavor. Recognizing these dangers and adopting safety measures is important for anyone who walks in a city.

Great West Injury Law understands the importance of pedestrian safety and the significant impact that accidents can have on individuals and their families. In this blog post, we give pedestrians some tips to navigate urban environments more safely, while highlighting how legal experts can assist if you are struck by a car while walking.

Understanding the Risks

Current statistics highlight the importance of pedestrian safety in urban settings. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average, a pedestrian was killed every 81 minutes and injured every 10 minutes in traffic crashes in 2020. While that’s a decrease from the year prior, there’s still a lot of work to do to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

Factors contributing to these accidents can include jaywalking, drivers failing to yield at crosswalks, and poor visibility at night. Understanding these risks is the first step toward mitigating them by adopting safety practices that protect pedestrians amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.

Safety Tip #1: Stay Visible

One of the most crucial strategies for pedestrian safety in urban environments is ensuring visibility. Motorists navigating city streets, especially during hours of low light at dawn, dusk, or nighttime, may have difficulty seeing pedestrians.

To counter this risk, pedestrians should make conscious efforts to wear brightly colored clothing or reflective materials that catch the light, making them stand out in the driver’s field of vision. Additionally, when crossing streets, it’s advisable to use designated crosswalks and intersections where drivers expect pedestrian traffic and where additional lighting and crossing signals offer more protection.

Carrying a flashlight or wearing light-up accessories at night can also enhance a pedestrian’s visibility. Avoid blind spots of parked or turning vehicles by staying in well-lit areas and using pedestrian pathways wherever available.

Safety Tip #2: Follow Traffic Signals and Use Crosswalks

Crosswalks are specifically engineered to be high-visibility zones where pedestrians can safely cross the street. They often feature additional safety measures such as flashing lights, countdown timers, and in some areas, pedestrian flags for added visibility.

Make use of these designated crossing points to significantly reduce the risk of accidents. Drivers are more alert to pedestrian activity in these areas, and many urban intersections now include audible crossing signals and tactile paving to assist those with visual impairments, ensuring safety is inclusive for all pedestrians.

Venturing across streets outside of these designated areas, often referred to as jaywalking, not only increases the risk of an accident but can also lead to legal penalties in many cities. Pedestrians should always wait for the “walk” signal at intersections and make sure the path is clear from all directions before stepping into the street, even at crosswalks.

Safety Tip #3: Avoid Distractions

When on foot along busy city roads, you should try to minimize distractions: put away smartphones, take off headphones, and keep your attention on your surroundings. Engaging in activities like texting, browsing social media, or listening to loud music while navigating city streets can reduce your ability to hear oncoming traffic, emergency vehicles, and other potential hazards.

Simple, common-sense measures can greatly enhance your safety. If you must use your phone, for example, step aside to a safe spot away from the flow of other pedestrians and traffic. If you want to soundtrack your walk with music, avoid noise cancelling headphones and consider using only one earbud to increase your auditory awareness of the traffic nearby.

Safety Tip #4: Make Eye Contact with Drivers

One of the most effective ways to enhance your safety as a pedestrian in urban settings is by making eye contact with drivers. By establishing eye contact, you ensure that the driver has seen you before you proceed. This is a particularly effective tip when you’re at intersections, crosswalks, and parking lot exits.

Making eye contact with drivers does more than just confirm visibility; it also creates a moment of acknowledgment and understanding between you and the driver. It’s a shared moment that signals both parties are aware of each other’s presence and intentions.

Safety Tip #5: Stay Sober

Alcohol and drugs significantly impair judgment, coordination, and reaction times, making it more challenging to navigate streets, understand traffic signals, and react to potential dangers. For pedestrians, this impairment increases the likelihood of accidents, as it becomes difficult to assess the speed of oncoming vehicles, make safe decisions at crossings, and maintain a straight path.

Additionally, substances can lead to risky behaviors such as jaywalking or ignoring pedestrian signals, which further heighten the risk of collisions with vehicles. Plan ahead if you know you’ll be consuming alcohol: arrange for a sober companion or utilize public transportation or ride-sharing services to ensure you reach your destination safely.

Safety Tip #6: Understand Pedestrian Right-of-Way Rules

In most areas, pedestrians have the right of way at marked crosswalks and intersections with pedestrian signals. This means that vehicles are required to yield to pedestrians crossing the road within any marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. However, this right of way is not an absolute protection against accidents, and pedestrians must always remain vigilant.

Here are key points to remember:

  • Signals at Intersections: Pay attention to pedestrian signals and only cross when you receive the walk signal. Even then, ensure that all vehicles have come to a complete stop before you step onto the road.
  • Unmarked Crosswalks: In places where crosswalks are not marked, pedestrians often still have the right of way at intersections. However, since these crossings are less visible to drivers, extra caution should be exercised.
  • Look Both Ways: Even if you have the right of way, make sure to look both ways before crossing. Some drivers might not be paying attention or may fail to yield.
  • Make Eye Contact: As mentioned earlier, making eye contact with drivers can help ensure they’ve seen you and are stopping for you to cross.

If You’re Hit While Walking, Follow These Steps and Call Great West

Being involved in a pedestrian accident can be a traumatic and disorienting experience. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you should know the steps to take:

  1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention: Even if you don’t think you’re seriously injured, it’s essential to get checked by medical professionals.
  2. Contact the Police: Ensure that the incident is officially reported and obtain a copy of the report.
  3. Gather Information: If you’re able, collect the names, contact information, and insurance details of all parties involved, including any witnesses, and take photos of the scene, your injuries, and any relevant road conditions.
  4. Avoid Negotiating with the Driver: Politely decline any offer to settle the matter privately without involving insurance companies or the police.
  5. Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney: Before accepting any settlement offers from insurance companies, it’s wise to consult with a lawyer who specializes in pedestrian accidents.

Remember, if you’re injured while walking, taking immediate action is crucial for both your health and any future claims. If you’re considering speaking to a pedestrian accident lawyer, Great West Injury Law is here to help guide you through your recovery and the legal process.

Contact us today for a free consultation on your case.