It is the most ancient form of transportation, and while automatic cars and expanded public transportation may make the headlines, walking is still the most common mode of transportation around the world.
Walking and HealthBesides being simply a mode of transportation, walking for exercise has been popular for thousands of years. One supporter is the Mayo Clinic, which lists potential benefits including:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mood
- Improve your balance and coordination.
Pedestrian SafetyBut, despite the utility and popularity of walking, there are dangers. A report released March 30 by the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GSA) shows a disturbing trend: pedestrian deaths increased by 11 percent in 2016 over the same time period in 2015 and were 22 percent higher than in 2014. Overall, the report shows 5,997 pedestrian deaths in 2016; 5,376 in 2015; and 4,910 in 2014. The report also suggests 2016 could be the most dangerous year for pedestrians in more than two decades. The report shows that pedestrian deaths made up more than 15 percent of all traffic fatalities, 74 percent occurred after dark and alcohol was involved in 34 percent of the accidents. Also, 72 percent occurred in travel lanes, 18 percent in intersections and 10 percent in non-travel lanes, including shoulders and driveways.
Kentucky’s Pedestrian Death RateKentucky’s pedestrian death average has remained fairly consistent, although it has risen slightly. From January to June 2015, the GSC report shows there were 36 pedestrian fatalities. In the same time period in 2016, there were 37 – a rise of 2.8 percent.
Causes of Accidents With PedestriansThe Traffic Safety Store, a traffic safety supply vendor, lists on their website a list of some of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents:
- Improper Lane Use — The vast majority of pedestrian accidents happen in the road, with two-thirds occurring on city streets.
- Unmarked Crosswalks — Intersections are a hotspot for pedestrian accidents.
- Left-Hand Turns — Even safer, signaled crosswalks aren’t immune to vehicle-pedestrian collisions.
- Electronics — The no-texting rule isn’t only for drivers.
- Quiet Cars — While ideal for neighborhood peace, battery-operated automobiles and hybrids are 40 percent more likely to strike pedestrians – who detect oncoming traffic with their ears as well as their eyes – than their gas-guzzling counterparts.
- Dark Clothes — Nearly 50 percent of all pedestrian accidents happen on the weekends, and 70 percent happen at night.
- Alcohol — Substance use, no doubt, contributes to the nights-and-weekends accident spike, and drivers aren’t the only responsible parties.
- Arterial Roads — As cities draw more and more people, multilane, high-speed roadways are increasingly necessary to move traffic to and from the freeway.
Take PrecautionsHowever, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) does have suggestions to make walking safer. Precautions that can be taken to minimize the basic risks include:
Be Safe and Be Seen: Make yourself visible to drivers
- Wear bright/light-colored clothing and reflective materials.
- Carry a flashlight when walking at night.
- Cross the street in a well-lit area at night.
- Stand clear of buses, hedges, parked cars, or other obstacles before crossing so drivers can see you.
Be Smart and Alert: Avoid dangerous behaviors
- Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
- Stay sober; walking while impaired increases your chance of being struck.
- Don’t assume vehicles will stop. Make eye contact with drivers, don’t just look at the vehicle. If a driver is on a cell phone, he or she may not be paying enough attention to drive safely.
- Don’t rely solely on pedestrian signals. Look before you cross the road.
- Be alert to engine noise or backup lights on cars when in parking lots and near on-street parking spaces.
Be Careful at Crossings: Look before you step
- Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections, if possible.
- Obey traffic signals such as WALK/DON’T WALK signs.
- Look left, right, and left again before crossing a street.
- Watch for turning vehicles. Make sure the driver sees you and will stop for you.
- Look across ALL lanes you must cross and visually clear each lane before proceeding. Even if one motorist stops, do not presume drivers in other lanes can see you and will stop for you.
- Don’t wear headphones or talk on a cell phone while crossing.