How Can Pedestrians Stay Safe on Increasingly Dangerous Roads?


In order to prevent pedestrian deaths caused by motor vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that drivers constantly lookout for pedestrians and that pedestrians be on the lookout for cars, walk on sidewalks, and follow all rules and crossing signs.

In 2019, a pedestrian was killed in a motor vehicle accidents every 85 minutes in the US, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A resource provided by the agency, a division of the US Department of Transportation, offers information, analysis, and essential tips regarding pedestrian safety. 

The NHTSA maintains safety recommendations for both drivers and pedestrians. For drivers, it recommends maintaining a constant lookout for pedestrians; exercising heightened caution when visibility conditions are low, as they are at night or during inclement weather; slowing the vehicle and preparing to stop either when turning or driving through a crosswalk; yielding to pedestrians when they’re in a crosswalk; ensuring that the vehicle is stopped back from a crosswalk, such that other drivers can see crossing pedestrians; never passing vehicles stopped at a crosswalk; refraining from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; abiding by speed limits; and maintaining extra caution when backing up. 

For pedestrians, the NHTSA recommends following the rules of the road; looking out for and obeying roadway signs and traffic signals; staying on sidewalks, if possible; walking into traffic, but as far as possible away from traffic, when there are no sidewalks; when possible, crossing at crosswalks or intersections, maintaining a lookout for cars “in all directions”; crossing in well-lit areas “where you have the best view of traffic” when crosswalks or intersections are not available; crossing during a gap in traffic when crosswalks or intersections aren’t available; maintaining a lookout for cars either pulling into or out of driveways; maintaining a lookout for cars backing out of their spaces in parking lots; and avoiding the influence of drugs or alcohol while walking.

The NHTSA’s pedestrian safety programs, it notes, emphasize what it calls “the safe system approach.” This has five chief prongs: safe people, safe roads, safe speeds, safe vehicles, and post-crash care. “Safe people” refers to the encouragement of safe and responsible road use by road users. “Safe speeds” refers to the promotion of safe speeds through “targeted, context-appropriate outreach campaigns” and “judicious enforcement.” “Safe roads” refers to street design that anticipates and mitigates human error and “injury tolerances.” “Safe vehicles” refers to the promotion of vehicle designs and features, like automated driver-assist technologies, that help avoid crashes and protect car occupants. Finally, “post-crash care” refers to the need to ensure the fast, accessible emergency care for crash victims, in part by using “robust incident management practices” to ensure secondary crashes do not occur as first responders tend to victims.

More information on pedestrian safety is available via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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