Drivers and pedestrians alike share the responsibility of keeping themselves and others on the road safe. Many strides have been made by the Federal Highway Administration to increase pedestrian safety. Infrastructure improvements have added a variety of safety measures, including more medians and redesigned roads allowing for better pedestrian/bicycle traffic flow.
Types of Pedestrians
Keeping Children Educated and SupervisedBecause children mature at different rates, parents should consider walking to school with them until they can fully comprehend the rules of the road (usually around age 10). Walking your children to school provides opportunities to teach them important pedestrian safety practices and the rules of the road. Some key points to help keep children safe: Look left, look right and look left again. This pedestrian rule has been passed down through generations and has not lost its importance or lifesaving value. Stop in a safe place before entering a roadway and practice looking both ways before crossing the street. Make eye contact with drivers who appear to be letting you cross the street. Never assume the driver has seen you. This allows the driver a chance to children and let them pass or provides children the opportunity to wait if the driver has not seen them. When exiting or approaching a school bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and wait for acknowledgment before crossing in front. Always maintain at least 10 feet from the front, back and sides of the bus. Always use your eyes and ears to know what is going on around you. Your vision and hearing work together, providing the best defense for safety. Do not use headphones or play with handheld devices when crossing the street. Whenever possible, stay on sidewalks and use marked crosswalks. Never run out into the street, regardless of what you are chasing after. Even if a ball has unexpectedly entered a roadway, you still must follow all the rules of crossing the street in order to retrieve it. Be sure to look left, right and left again before entering the roadway.
Watching Out for Children
- Children are the most unpredictable of all pedestrians. They are also the smallest and most uneducated.
- Be prepared when in neighborhoods or driving by parks. Children can unexpectedly run out into the street.
- Be vigilant when backing out of driveways and turning onto residential streets, children can be playing in hard to see places.
- Always stop when a school bus has its stop sign out. Unless you are on a divided highway, traffic in both directions must stop for a school bus that has its stop sign out. If you are on the other side of a divided highway, still use caution as there are children around.
Watching Out for Children While Driving
- Children are the most unpredictable of all pedestrians. They are also the smallest and don’t understand the rules of the road. Be prepared to stop when driving in neighborhoods or by parks. Children can unexpectedly run out into the street.
- Be vigilant and watch for pedestrians when backing out of driveways and turning onto residential streets. Children can be playing in hard-to-see places.
- Traffic in both directions must stop for a school bus that has its stop arm out. If you are on the other side of a divided highway, you may proceed without stopping, but use good common sense and caution because children are on the move.
AAA ProgramsAAA has been proactively involved in child pedestrian safety with programs like AAA’s School Safety Patrol. This program teaches children about traffic safety principles and allows them opportunities to share that knowledge with peers. Patrollers assist in helping other students cross streets safely and serve as student leaders within their schools. This is a school-sponsored program that is deeply invested in the safety and education of communities it serves. Learn more about the AAA School Safety Patrol program.
School’s Open – Drive Carefully CampaignIn 1946, AAA created the School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign. It has successfully created driver awareness of school-aged pedestrians for nearly 70 years. Learn more about AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign.
Walking has the added benefit of fostering a healthy lifestyle while also transporting you to where you need to go. Walking three to four hours each week has exponential value for your continued health as the years go by. Start with several small walks a day and work toward a full 30-minute walk each day. This will not only increase your stamina and heath, but also your ability to perform other physical activities.
Long Term Pedestrian Health Benefits
Walking regularly can:
Lead to weight loss or help maintain a healthy weight.
Help boost your endorphins, which can result in improved mental heath.
Help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and strengthening your heart.
Help increase flexibility and endurance and limit decreases in bone density.
Even help you drive longer as a result of increased reflex and nervous system response.
Mature Pedestrian Safety
Though walking often is a good and healthy lifestyle choice, older adults should remember to always be cautious whenever walking in or near traffic. A few simple tips:
- Be visible.
- This is especially important in dark places or poor weather. Remember to stay in well-lit areas and to wear light or reflective clothing. Never assume drivers see you just because you see them.
- Wear shoes that provide ample foot and ankle support and have suitable grip to prevent sliding or slipping.
- Whenever possible, stay on sidewalks and pathways.
- If a sidewalk is not available, stay to the far side of the road and always face traffic. Be sure to be as visible as possible.
- A stopped car can obstruct the view of other drivers.
- Beware that if a driver lets you pass, is does not necessarily mean other drivers are aware that you are crossing.
- Use crosswalks when possible and follow all traffic signals.
- Plan your route so you can always use crosswalks, and be sure to avoid any hazardous crossings or busy streets during times of heavy traffic.
- Look both ways when you cross the street, even at a crosswalk.
- Allow yourself enough time to cross the street.
- If a walk sign has been lit for a while, or the caution sign has begun to blink, it is wise to wait for a new green signal to have the maximum time to cross the street.
- Do not assume a driver will stop for you because you are in a crosswalk.
- Be careful. Not all drivers will follow pedestrian traffic rules or signs. Always be aware of vehicles that are around you so you may take control of your own safety.
- Know what traffic signals mean.
Runners and joggers should follow the same pedestrian safety guidelines as those who are walking. Runners are exposed to higher danger because they move faster and have less reaction time than a typical pedestrian. Therefore, they should be more vigilant in maintaining their safety. Among tips for runners and joggers:
Follow all traffic rules, signs and signals – especially those relating to pedestrians.
Wear light or reflective clothing, especially at night.
Stay in well-lit areas.
Use crosswalks when crossing the street.
Stay on sidewalks or run on the far side of the road facing traffic.
Never assume a driver sees you or will give you the right of way.
Avoid distractions – however tempting, don’t run with headphones. You need to be able to pay attention to what is around you and hear approaching vehicles or other dangers.
Wear proper footwear to avoid injury.
Always carry identification.
Tips for Pedestrians
Make sure you’re visible to drivers at all times and make eye contact with them whenever possible. This is especially important at night, in low-light conditions such as dusk or dawn or in inclement weather. According to NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 32 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occur between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.
Wear lightly colored or reflective clothing at night and brightly colored clothing during the day.
Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
If possible, make eye contact with drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before you cross in front of them.
Stay Alert – Avoid Distractions
Distractions are everywhere today and becoming more and more difficult to avoid. Remember that, as a pedestrian, your eyes and ears are your best tools for keeping safe. Stay alert and watch out.
- Put down your phone. Smartphones and handheld electronic devices are a daily part of life, but they take your eyes off of the road and distract your attention.
- Don’t wear headphones. Your ears will tell you a lot about what is happening around you – be sure to use them.
Follow the Rules
- Know and follow all traffic rules, signs and signals. You need to be aware of the rules vehicles around you must follow to properly anticipate what drivers will do. This will help increase your safety.
- Never assume a driver will give you the right of way. Make every effort to make eye contact with the driver of a stopped or approaching vehicle before entering the roadway.
Walk in Safe Places
- Use crosswalks when crossing the street. If a crosswalk is unavailable, be sure to find the most well-lit spot on the road to cross and wait for a long enough gap in traffic to make it safely across the street.
- Stay on sidewalks whenever possible. If a sidewalk is not available, be sure to walk on the far side of the road facing traffic. This will help increase your visibility to drivers.
- Avoid walking along highways or other roadways where pedestrians are prohibited.
Avoid Alcohol Consumption
- Almost half of all traffic crashes resulting in pedestrian casualties involve alcohol consumption. Surprisingly, 34 percent of that total was on the part of the pedestrian. Alcohol impairs your decision-making skills, physical reflexes and other abilities just as much on your feet as it does behind the wheel.
Look out for pedestrians at all times. When you are operating a vehicle, you have accepted a heightened responsibility for other people on the road. Safety is a two-way street. Often, pedestrians— especially younger ones— are not where they should be or where you would expect them to be. Remain vigilant at all times.
Follow posted speed limits at all times, especially in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic. This is even more important in areas that have lower speed limits, such as school zones and neighborhood streets where pedestrians may appear suddenly.
Stay Alert – Avoid Distractions – Put down your phone. Smartphones and handheld electronic devices take your eyes off of the road and distract your attention.
Overall visibility is limited in bad weather conditions and poorly lit areas. Not only is it more difficult for drivers to see oncoming pedestrians, it also is harder for pedestrians to see you. Make sure your lights are on and you use your signals properly. Use extra caution in these circumstances.
Be mindful of pedestrians when pulling into and out of driveways – especially if you are backing up. Pedestrians can easily enter your path without your knowledge.
- Always yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.
- When approaching a crosswalk, reduce your speed and be prepared to stop.
- When you are stopped at a crosswalk, allow enough room between your vehicle and the crosswalk so other drivers can see the pedestrians you have stopped for.
- Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They have stopped to allow pedestrians to pass or make sure the way is clear.
Do Not Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol, Drugs or Drowsy Driving
Alcohol, drugs, and fatigue impair your reaction time, reflexes, decision-making skills and overall cognitive functions. Getting behind the wheel while impaired or tired puts everyone in danger.