A pedestrian is a person traveling on foot, whether walking or running. In some communities, those traveling using any wheels such as roller skates, skateboards, and scooters, as well as wheelchair users are also included as pedestrians. The term pedestrian usually refers to someone walking on the road or the pavement. Walking has always been the primary means of human locomotion.
Distractions are not something that is new, but among drivers and pedestrians, it is a growing danger. Distractions put the lives of the drivers as well as pedestrians in danger:
- Listening to the radio
- Talking to the fellow passenger
- Anxiety over being lost
- Anxiety over being late
- Looking up directions
- Reading an article on your tablet
- Talking or texting on your cell phone
According to a study done by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in 2010 more than 3,000 people were killed and 416,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a driver who was distracted in some way. Safe Kids conducted an observational study of more than 41,000 drivers in school zones in 2009 and found that one in six drivers were involved in conduct that could be considered distractive. People who text while driving are 23 more times likely to crash than those who drive without distraction.
A Study done by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that in 2011, 1,152 people of all ages were treated in hospital emergency rooms in the United States for injuries suffered while walking and using a cell phone. That same study states that reports of injuries to distractive walkers in emergency rooms have more than quadrupled in the past seven years.
In that same report, 116 pedestrians were hit by vehicles while wearing headphones or earbuds; more than a third of those injured or killed were younger than age 18.
In terms of location, 39% of child pedestrians died as a result of being hit in intersections in 2010 and 56% were killed in other locations on the road. In addition, 76% of pedestrian deaths occurred in locations without traffic control devices such as pedestrian crossing signals, stop signs or other warning signs.
Did you know?
- Eighty percent of child pedestrian deaths occur at non-intersection locations.
- Have a death rate twice that of younger children and have accounted for half of all child pedestrian injuries in the past five years.
- Unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States for children 5 to 19.
- Developmentally kids cannot judge speed and distance of approaching vehicles until age 10.
One of the first steps in reducing pedestrian risk is to better understand the causes behind pedestrian injuries and deaths. Education for those living in urban populations, combined with infrastructure improvements, will provide the next steps for reducing the burden of pedestrian-related injuries. There is a continued need for safe and more walkable communities.
Walking benefits the environment as well as the health of children and adults. Improvements need to be made in increasing the number of sidewalks, crosswalks, effective signage (particularly around schools and in residential areas) and most importantly the creation of environments in which pedestrians can walk while separated from traffic.
More studies need to be done to determine the impact walking while distracted by cell phones and other technologies. Studies need to be done to look at the impact of distracted walking among children. Middle school-aged children, those who are more likely to cross the road independently may be at increased risk due to the likelihood that they have their own cell phones. Pedestrian risk increases in areas with more exposure to traffic, multifamily dwellings, a lack of playgrounds, major roadways, increased traffic volume, curbside parking and child attractions.
Pedestrian Safety Tips
Safe Kids World Wide and Department of Public and Environmental Safety)
- Cross Streets at a corner, using traffic signals where available and crosswalks.
- Always look left, right, and left again before crossing a street, and keep watching as you cross. Be aware that drivers have differing levels of eyesight and skills in operating motor vehicles.
- Pedestrians should be especially careful at intersections, when drivers may fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians while turning onto another street.
- Make sure you are seen:
- Make eye contact with drivers when crossing busy streets.
- Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking near traffic at night.
- Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
- Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible. If sidewalks are not available, walk facing traffic on the edge of the road, as far from the travel lane as possible.
- Walk defensively and be ready for unexpected events. Know what’s going on around you and don’t allow your vision to be blocked by clothing, hats, or items that you are carrying.
- Watch the pedestrian signals, not the traffic signal, and follow “walk/don’t walk” lights (they are set up to help you cross safely).
- Look for pedestrian push buttons for crossing protection at signalized intersections.
- Watch out for parked vehicles. Parking lots can be as dangerous as streets.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can impair your ability to walk safely.
- When crossing, use all of your senses and don’t use your cell phone for calls or texting.
- Use particular caution when crossing driveways and alley entrances. Drivers may not expect you to be there or see you.
- Adults should supervise children when crossing streets. Smaller children may be difficult for drivers to see and young children may not be able to judge whether it is safe to cross a street.
- Children under 10 need to always cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally most kids are unable to judge speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.