Walk this Way
Garrison Safety Office
Fort Knox, Kentucky
Editor’s note: Over the past few years, several Soldiers have died in pedestrian mishaps. As spring nears and more Soldiers head outdoors for recreational activities, leaders must remind them to continue practicing risk management in everything they do, both on and off duty, to help curb these preventable losses.
How many times were you about to step into a crosswalk but noticed the driver in an approaching vehicle seemed unaware of you? How often did you hesitate and wait, choosing to not let their being oblivious send you into oblivion? Here’s what happened to me.
I’d just driven onto post and stopped at the 24-hour shoppette to get some coffee. It was a chilly morning and I needed that cup of joe. I drove to the parking lot where I worked, got out and headed toward Seventh Avenue to my office. It was still a bit dark outside, and I made it a point to look left and right before stepping out into the road. I saw cars stopped at a red light about 300 feet to my left. When I looked to the right, I saw the road was clear. Glancing again to the left for a couple of seconds, I felt it was safe to step into the crosswalk. I wasn’t distracted or in a rush as I started across the street.
I was about halfway across when a blue Ford Mustang that had been stopped at the red light flew through the crosswalk, nearly clipping me from behind. That really startled me. I yelled, “Watch where you’re going!” But he just drove off as if nothing had happened.
When I got to the other side and stepped onto the sidewalk, I just stood there for a moment. I thought how fortunate I’d been that I hadn’t stopped in the crosswalk to answer my phone, turned around to get something I’d left in my car, or dropped my keys and bent down to pick them up. Had I done any of those things, I might have been seriously injured or worse.
I feel lucky I wasn’t hit that day. Maybe the driver had something on his mind other than the road or was running late for work. Maybe he’d been messing with his radio, sipping coffee, munching on some food or talking on his phone. Maybe he just felt like he owned the road. Whatever the reason he sped through a well-lit crosswalk, his actions were irresponsible and wrong.
Because pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks, sometimes we may tend to feel safe, believing drivers will respect the law. However, when they don’t, we’re the losers. It’s a simple matter of size, weight and momentum. Car bodies pack a bigger punch than human bodies.
I thought I was safe stepping into the crosswalk that morning. I know better now and realize it’s not enough to just look left and right and left again. When you’re in a crosswalk, you need to constantly monitor what is happening around you. The bottom line is situational awareness is vital for safety.
Take a Walk on the Safe Side
FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION
Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
Safety is important for all roadway users — pedestrians and drivers alike. Both are expected to follow the safe rules of the road to help prevent crippling or deadly mishaps. Each year, about 4,600 pedestrians are killed and another 70,000 are injured in traffic accidents. Following the tips below will help you to walk on the safe side.
- Be alert and attentive to traffic and don’t cross the street until it is safe.
- Be responsible and obey pedestrian Walk/Don’t Walk signals. One-third of all fatal collisions are a result of a pedestrian disregarding traffic signals or making a dangerous judgment.
- Look left-right-left. If the road is clear, begin crossing. If you’re in a country where motorists drive on the left side of the road, then reverse the process and look right-left-right.
- When crossing the street, continue to check for traffic in all directions, especially for vehicles making a right turn on red.
- At a crosswalk, if there is traffic, make eye contact with drivers so they can see you, understand your intentions and stop before you start to cross.
- Use sidewalks when they are available. On roads without sidewalks, it is safest to walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.
- Never attempt to walk along or cross expressways, interstate highways or turnpikes. If your vehicle breaks down, remain inside and use your cellphone to call for help.
- When walking at night or during the low-light hours of dawn or dusk, wear something reflective on your clothing and shoes or carry a flashlight. Almost 50% of all pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and midnight — a six-hour window. Wearing reflective clothing is especially important during the fall and winter months, when daylight hours are shorter and people often wear dark coats or other clothing which may be difficult for motorists to see.
- Limit consumption of alcohol if you plan on walking. About 38% of all pedestrians (age 16 and older) killed have a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater.
- Supervise road crossings for children under the age of 10 since they don’t have the capacity to judge the situation safely. Pedestrian fatalities involving children between the ages of 5 and 9 make up one-fourth of all roadway fatalities for this age group.
Drivers also need to be extra vigilant, so stay alert. Make sure your lights are on and refrain from taking your eyes off the roadway. Be sure to look for pedestrians in areas where they are likely to appear, such as an intersection, but remember walkers can be on any road. It could save a life — or change yours forever.