Pedestrian laws and common violations | 10 ways to stay safe

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A pedestrian is someone who travels by foot; a walker. Almost every state in the United States has road rules that particularly address pedestrian rights and responsibilities. These pedestrian laws ensure pedestrians have a convenient and safe crossing of all streets and highways, boost walking and pedestrian trips, and reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

Many people assume that because pedestrians are the road’s most vulnerable users, they do not have any responsibilities in terms of safety or roadway rules. While pedestrians are at the greatest risk of injury in accidents, they still have traffic laws they must obey. 

Pedestrians’ Responsibilities

Pedestrians include persons who walk, ride a bicycle, or use wheeled devices such as skateboards, wheelchairs, or motorized mobility devices. The several pedestrian obligations and rules ensure the safety of all road users.

Pedestrian injuries sometimes occur when people attempt to cross a street mid-block rather than at the corner. Failure to obey traffic signs and signals is another frequent cause of pedestrian injury. We’d rather you stay safe than be struck by a moving vehicle. Therefore, please take the time to go through this article and become familiar with the ins and outs of road safety. 

Always use sidewalks

It is generally against pedestrian law for a pedestrian to walk in the street if a sidewalk or pedestrian passageway is available. It is also unsafe. Always use a sidewalk if one is available. Walk in the direction opposing traffic, so you are facing oncoming vehicles. This can give you time to react and move out of the way if you see a vehicle about to strike you. If you have to walk in the street, stay as far to the right-hand side of the road as possible. Get to a street that has a sidewalk as soon as you can.

Cross at intersections

The safest place to cross is at a street corner, whether or not there is a crosswalk. The most prevalent cause of pedestrian injury is crossing in the middle of a block where cars are not expecting to see you.

Pedestrian safety reminders

Before entering a street, even from a driveway or parking lot, pause and look both ways.

Before crossing in front of a car, make eye contact and ensure the driver sees you.

Keep an eye on your surroundings. Avoid texting or talking on your phone while walking. You run the risk of tripping or colliding with hidden impediments. If you need to use your phone while walking, make a safe halt. Proceed along the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk in the opposite direction of traffic.

How to cross a road safely

  • Respect Signals
  • Adhere to all signs and signals.
  • Begin walking only when the word “WALK” or the pedestrian emblem appears.
  • You may continue crossing if the red hand is flashing. However, if you have not yet begun crossing, you should wait for the next green light.
  • Do not begin walking if the Pedestrian Control Device displays the “Do Not Walk” or red hand indication.

Common Pedestrian Mistakes You Must Avoid

Pedestrian safety is a responsibility shared by both drivers and pedestrians. We frequently hear about car accidents that are caused by drunk driving or distracted driving, but not as much is said about pedestrian responsibility for being hit by a car. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the driver of a vehicle to avoid hitting a pedestrian. However, here are six common mistakes that pedestrians make while walking that increase their risk of being hit by a car.

Walking while distracted

In this age of multitasking, it has become easier to get distracted, while driving and while walking. Use your eyes and ears to be aware and avoid cars. Staying alert is the best way to stay safe.

Walking in unsafe places

Keep in mind that there are usually designated places for pedestrians to walk. Always use a crosswalk when one is available. If there is no crosswalk, find the most well-lit spot on the road (preferably a corner) and wait for a good distance between cars to allow yourself enough time to cross safely. Stay on sidewalks where possible and if there is no sidewalk or other path, walk on the far side of the road facing traffic.

Wearing dark clothes while walking at night

One of the most important safety tips for pedestrians is to stay visible. Especially at night, if you’re wearing dark clothes drivers may not see you. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, 32% of pedestrian fatalities occur at night. Wear reflective or light-colored clothing at night to ensure you are visible to drivers. Remember to stay in adequately lighted areas.

Not watching for cars that are backing up

Cars backing up is especially dangerous for pedestrians walking past driveways in a residential area or in a parking lot. Cars may back up quickly and you may be in the driver’s blind spot as a pedestrian. Be alert when passing behind cars. If the brake lights are on, the car is on and could back up. Also, if a driver is sitting in the driver’s seat, pause to make eye contact to make sure they see you before crossing behind the car or going around another way.

Not watching for second cars

When crossing the street, pause at each lane and make eye contact with the driver to make sure they see you before crossing in front of their car. Don’t assume that because the car in the first lane saw you and stopped the others will follow suit. They may not be paying attention.

Drinking too much alcohol, even as a pedestrian

Nearly 34% of pedestrian fatalities involve excessive alcohol consumption by the pedestrian. Alcohol impairs physical reflexes and decision-making skills regardless of whether you are walking or behind the wheel. Don’t assume that it’s safe to drink in excess simply because you are not planning to drive. Being drunk can also affect your judgment while walking and put you in the path of danger.

Final Words

As a pedestrian, you should always use good judgment and not interrupt the flow of traffic. Crossing streets without any concern for traffic rules or signals is called jaywalking. Many jurisdictions prohibit jaywalking and you could be cited. Besides, it is extremely dangerous and can result in injuries.

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