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Awareness of safe motor vehicle driving techniques continues to grow in the United States. While the overall number of motor vehicle accidents that resulted in fatalities has decreased on a national level the last few years, the CDC reports that motor vehicle crashes remain one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., and in 2011, pedestrian fatalities actually increased. The Department of Transportation estimates a pedestrian injury every 8 minutes. It’s important to remember that motor vehicles share the road with pedestrians and other forms of transportation that do not offer much protection.

Everyone Is a Pedestrian

Everyone Is a Pedestrian: that’s the name the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given to its campaign to promote pedestrian safety. No matter what mode of transportation an individual chooses most often, that person is also a pedestrian at various moments of his or her life.

Think about it: every time you cross the street, you’re sharing the roadway with motor vehicles, which means that you’re putting yourself in potential danger without thousands of pounds of steel, high-grade plastic, carbon fiber and other materials to protect you. This means that you have to be extra aware as a pedestrian in order to ensure your safety.

While other groups of road users like automobile operators and motorcyclists have seen their fatality numbers drop in recent years, pedestrians have actually seen an increase in fatalities. As it stands now, a pedestrian is killed every two hours (and injured every seven minutes) as a result of traffic crashes. A full fourteen percent of traffic fatalities are pedestrians. These numbers are sobering, but the good news is that we can all work together to improve pedestrian safety and spread awareness.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

What can you do to be more safe as a pedestrian? So much great advice is simple common sense, but it certainly bears repeating.

Look both ways before you cross the road

Obey “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signs and signals

Don’t walk into an intersection with your “blinders” on just because you have a “Walk” signal

Avoid distractions such as talking, texting or listening to music when you are sharing the roadways

Stay off the street and use sidewalks whenever possible

Always cross using a crosswalk

Be visible – wear clothing that makes you easy to see, especially at night

Assume that drivers can’t see you

Be extra careful when walking through parking lots or past driveways

Avoid drugs, alcohol and other impairments

When You’re Not A Pedestrian

Keeping the roadways safe for pedestrians is also the responsibility of drivers. You can’t simply forget about pedestrian safety once you get behind the wheel of your car; you need to ensure that you’re not only watching out for other vehicles, but you’re also looking out for walkers, joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers and everyone else who might be sharing the road with you.

Here are some tips:

Don’t just watch for pedestrians at intersections – be aware of their potential presence everywhere

Adjust your driving appropriately for conditions – use extra caution when it’s difficult to see or during the nighttime hours

Red light? Stay out of the crosswalk!

Don’t pass vehicles that are stopped at a crosswalk – you might not see the pedestrians who are trying to cross

Follow all posted speed limits

Be extra cautious when backing up or when driving through parking areas

Avoid drugs, alcohol and other impairments/distractions

Remember – pedestrians aren’t just the people we see walking around when we drive around town; they’re members of our communities and families.

Be Safe, and Keep Others Safe

We’ve come a long way as a society when it comes to keeping people safe on the roadways, but we’ve got a long way to go to ensure that pedestrians are safe, too. The next time you’re out and about as a pedestrian, remember that you’re sharing the road with motor vehicles driven by people who might not be aware of you. And don’t forget to keep pedestrians in mind whenever you get behind the wheel of your vehicle. After all, everyone is a pedestrian!

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