In 2013, there were 4,735 traffic-related pedestrian deaths in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the likelihood of a pedestrian being killed or injured by a vehicle increases with age. In fact, pedestrians aged 65 and over account for an estimated 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths. Given this information, it’s clear that our older population must remain diligent and aware when they are out and about. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe as a pedestrian.
Pay Attention and Communicate With Drivers
It is easy to become distracted by your surroundings when you are out for a walk. In fact, many of us go for a walk for the purpose of enjoying the scenery. However, as a pedestrian, it is incumbent upon you to remain aware of traffic, especially when you are trying to cross the street. You may think the driver of the vehicle sees you but, unless you make eye contact, or are otherwise signaled by the driver, you cannot know for sure. In order to ensure that you don’t become one of the more than 9 distracted driving fatalities reported in the Unites States every day, keep your head up, remain aware, and communicate with drivers before crossing the street.
It may be inconvenient and less physically taxing to cross the street in the middle of the block, but it is not safe. Crosswalks offer more visibility for pedestrians, and they are significantly safer to use. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, in 2012, 68 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the 65 and over age group occurred at non-intersection locations. If a crosswalk is unavailable, cross the street at a corner. A car accident can easily kill a pedestrian, even in busy areas where vehicles are driving slowly. In fact, according to the NIH, 43 percent of all pedestrian deaths in 2013 occurred in the most populous states: California, Florida, Texas, and New York. But, it was Florida and Delaware which had the highest pedestrian fatality rate, at 3 deaths for every 100,000 residents. So, stay visible to drivers by utilizing crosswalks, or crossing at street corners, regardless of traffic speed and flow. The extra effort is definitely worth the trouble.
Even though you may be crossing the street at the corner, or by using the designated crosswalk, you must still obey traffic signals, just as drivers are required to do. If the street you are attempting to cross has a crosswalk signal, use it. Only enter the crosswalk once you are certain drivers have seen you, and if the crosswalk signal indicates you can cross. Do not begin to cross the street after the pedestrian signal begins to flash, however. That is akin to a driver’s yellow light, so you should stop and wait until the signal changes again signifying that it is safe to cross. Otherwise, you may not make it across the street before the traffic signals change, and you could be caught in cross traffic.
Senior pedestrians have a higher risk of injury and death than most age groups. Seniors can be a bit slower in their movements and, as we age, our senses, including vision and hearing, can diminish. However, by remaining aware of drivers, and ensuring they are aware of you, and by properly utilizing crosswalks, corners, and traffic signals, you can dramatically lower your risk of being injured or killed by a vehicle.