How to Stay Safe While Walking

Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise across the country. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 27 percent from 2007 to 2016. 

In our region, the South Shore Hospital Trauma Center has also seen a significant increase in pedestrian accidents. These incidents, which cause so much suffering and grief, are largely preventable. 

And, with more people turning to outdoor walks as a way to stay active during the pandemic, the numbers may be even higher this year. 

“With the stay-at-home advisory still in place, everyone should expect to see more neighbors walking, rolling, or running in the street as they try to maintain six feet of physical distance on narrow sidewalks. 

“If you are driving, be prepared to yield to people walking and drive slowly. Empty streets are not a license to drive faster. Please consider every street a shared street and stay safe,” adds Stacey Beuttell, Executive Director of WalkBoston, a non-profit dedicated to making Massachusetts more walkable.

By taking a few simple steps when out for a walk or a run, pedestrians can protect themselves from serious injury. 

Be Visible

When you’re out, be sure to wear appropriate clothing. During the day, wear bright colors. If you’re heading out at dusk or in the dark, wear reflective clothing to stay visible.

Nighttime is especially dangerous for pedestrians, with 32 percent of all pedestrian fatalities happening between 8 PM and 11 PM. Carry a flashlight with you when walking at night to improve visibility in any dark areas you come across to avoid trips and falls. Stay in well-lit areas as much as possible, especially when crossing the street.

Avoid Distractions

Distractions are the third-leading cause of pedestrian fatalities. And our electronic devices are one of the biggest distractions out there. 

Never walk or run while texting. If you can’t wait to reply, move out of the way of other pedestrians and stop walking until your messages are sent.

Keep your head up and your phone down when moving.

Remember that, as a pedestrian, your eyes and ears are your best tools for staying safe. What you hear will tell you a lot about what is happening around you, so avoid wearing headphones when on the streets.

Walk in Safe Places

Stay on the sidewalk whenever possible. If a sidewalk is not available, be sure to walk on the shoulder of the road facing traffic. This makes you most visible to drivers.

Look before you cross the road. Always look left, right, and left again. 

Use crosswalks when crossing the street whenever possible. Don't rely solely on pedestrian signals—always look before you cross, even if you have a walk signal. 

If a crosswalk is unavailable, be sure to find the well-lit spot on the road to cross and wait for a long enough gap in traffic to make it safely across the street. 

Talk to your children, especially teens, about pedestrian safety

In the 1990s, children between the ages of five and nine were most at risk of injury in pedestrian accidents. Today, it’s more likely that a teenager will be hit by a car. 

Five teenage pedestrians die every single week in the United States, so it’s important to reinforce messages around pedestrian safety throughout childhood.

Parents of young children should teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Then remind them to continue looking until safely across. 

Encourage kids of all ages to be alert for cars backing up in parking lots or other busy areas. 

Also, remember that actions are caught, not taught.

By modeling safe pedestrian habits, especially not looking at your phone while walking, you give your children the tools they’ll need to stay safe well into adulthood.

Teach your kids to be aware of their friends who may be distracted and speak up when someone is in danger. They could save a life. 

Taking a walk, run, or skate can be an affordable way to stay fit. But, as with all forms of exercise, you need to follow basic safety precautions to avoid injury.

Learn more about South Shore Health’s Trauma Center.