At some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian. Whether a person walks a child to school or walks from one’s vehicle’s parking lot to the office, each person walks where vehicles travel. Unfortunately, in 2021 there were 7,388 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes, a 12.5 percent increase from the 6,565 pedestrians’ fatalities in 2020. This is the highest since 1981 when 7,837 pedestrians died in traffic crashes. On average, a pedestrian was killed every 71 minutes and injured every 9 minutes in traffic crashes in 2021.
People rarely are more vulnerable than when walking in urban areas, crossing busy streets, and negotiating traffic. Even rural areas can be dangerous to walk in, as many areas have no sidewalks, crosswalks, or safe spaces for walking. Since everyone is a pedestrian from time to time, it is important to pay attention to what is going on around one. That is why the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program is sharing information on pedestrian safety this month.
“As both pedestrians and motorists, we all need to pay more attention to our surroundings. Vehicles are deadly weapons and, when combined with a pedestrian, can be deadly,” said Amy Boggs, pedestrian/bicycle safety Coordinator for the GHSP.
“Thirty-six people died on West Virgina’s roadways in 2021, while they were walking. That is 36 too many. Nearly all pedestrian-involved crashes are preventable. It all boils down to all of us paying attention, not being distracted or impaired, and slowing down,” Boggs concluded.
Follow these tips to stay safe as a pedestrian:
- Pay attention. That means: Head Up, Phone Down.
- Stay alert. Don’t wear ear buds.
- Whenever possible, walk on the sidewalk; if no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic.
- Follow the rules of the road, obeying all traffic signs and signals.
- Cross streets at crosswalks.
- If no crosswalk is available and a person’s view is blocked, move to a place where one can see oncoming traffic.
- Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street, making eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see a person.
- Avoid alcohol and drug impairment.
- Wear bright and/or reflective clothing and use a flashlight at night.
- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.
- Children should cross the street with an adult.
Distracted walking incidents are on the rise, and everyone with a cell phone is at risk. People are losing focus on their surroundings and putting one’s safety at risk. The solution: stop using phones while walking, and not just in crosswalks and intersections. Over half of distracted walking injuries occur in one’s own homes, proving that a person needs to stay aware of one’s surroundings whether indoors or out.
When driving, help keep pedestrians of all ages safe:
- Pay attention. Put the phone down and never drive while distracted.
- Obey all traffic laws, especially posted speed limits in school zones.
- Always watch out for pedestrians and be extra cautious when backing up.
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, making eye contact to indicate that a person sees them.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
- Do not drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
For more information about pedestrian safety, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/pedestrian-safety.
For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit highwaysafety.wv.gov, or call 304-926-2509.