The weather in Kansas City is perfect this time of year. You can feel the first hints of summer around the corner but without the overbearing humidity that will inevitably hammer us in July and August. It’s only natural we take every opportunity to be outside; walking the dog, window shopping on the Plaza, or enjoying Crossroads First Fridays. As more of us take to the streets though, the chance of pedestrian related traffic accidents goes up.
The likelihood of significant personal injury or death is much greater in motor vehicle crashes involving a pedestrian. The Missouri Department of Transportation recently reported 83 pedestrian fatalities in Missouri in 2016. This number represents nearly 10% of all traffic fatalities in Missouri for the year. Here are a few seemingly simple tips to help reduce pedestrian related traffic accidents.
1. Put your phone away. Don’t walk near roadways, in crosswalks, or in parking lots with your head down focused on texting or playing games. It’s much easier to get out of the way of a driver that doesn’t see you when you’re not engrossed in the latest cat video.
2. Stay in your vehicle. If your car becomes disabled on the roadway, stay inside it whenever possible. Wait for help to arrive. Drivers are more likely to see your car than they are to see you standing outside of it. If you must leave your vehicle, please remember to turn on your emergency flashers, and keep a constant lookout for oncoming traffic.
3. Look both ways before you cross the street. That good old rule you learned from your mom when you were five still applies. She may not be standing there to hold your hand as you cross, but hopefully she’s in your head reminding you of this little nugget. Don’t assume because the crosswalk signal flashes ok to go that traffic coming either direction has stopped for you to cross.
4. Make sure you’re visible. Just because you can see a vehicle, doesn’t mean the driver can see you. This is especially true at night. Walk in lighted, pedestrian designated areas whenever possible. Wear light colored or reflective clothing at night. Be aware of obstacles that may make it hard for a driver to see you such as bushes or parked cars.
5. Avoid alcohol consumption. Almost half of car crashes that involve a pedestrian casualty also involved alcohol consumption – a third of which, the alcohol consumption was on the part of the pedestrian. Remember that alcohol can impair reflexes and decision-making ability both behind the wheel as well as on your feet.
6. Use crosswalks. Even if you don’t see any cars coming, it’s best to wait to cross the street until you are at a crosswalk. Crosswalks are where drivers are most likely to expect to see pedestrians and are the safest place to enter the roadway.
7. Make eye contact. Even when you have the right of way, never assume the driver will allow you to go first. Making eye contact with the driver will ensure that they see you before you enter the roadway.
8. Walk on the sidewalk. If a sidewalk is unavailable, you should walk on the shoulder of the road and face traffic.
9. Beware of parked vehicles. Parked vehicles can be dangerous themselves. Ensure the car is parked and the driver is not about to drive. Do not enter roadways near parked vehicles – they can obstruct other drivers’ views of pedestrians.
10. Walk defensively. Always be aware of your surroundings and expect the unexpected. Use particular caution when walking across a driveway or alleyway where drivers may not be expecting to see pedestrians.