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Driver Care - Walkers Don’t Wear Airbags

Take extra precautions for people on a stroll

Springtime brings more than flowers, singing birds and warmer weather.  It also brings out more pedestrians -- walkers, joggers and kids playing outdoors – and so more occasions to challenge drivers’ safety sense. 

While the long-term safety record for pedestrians is much improved, 2005 (the latest year for the statistics) saw a troubling increase in the number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents to 4,881 -- the first annual increase in four years.  And the problem is bigger when you add in the 64,000 pedestrians injured who survived being hit.

It might surprise the “good driver” to know these facts about 2005’s fatal pedestrian crashes:

  • 89 percent occurred in good weather.
  • 86 percent occurred without the driver having had any alcohol in his or her blood.

This means that the overwhelming majority of these tragedies involved drivers suffering from no obvious impairment. But darkness and the element of surprise do seem to be leading factors:  eight of ten incidents occur when pedestrians are nowhere near intersections, and more than two out of three occur between the hours of 4 p.m. and 4 a.m.

What’s A Driver To Do?

Safety experts say that in many cases it’s the pedestrian and not the driver who’s at fault for people-vehicle collisions.  But that didn’t make the drivers feel any better or less traumatized.  Following these driving guidelines can help you minimize your chances of injuring or killing someone on foot:

Slow down.  Especially in urban areas, where pedestrians are most at risk, lower speed is the answer to saving a life.   At 40 mph, a pedestrian’s chances of surviving being hit by a car are just 15 percent, while at 30 mph the chances increase to 55 percent, and at 20 mph they zoom to 95 percent.  Going slower also increases your chances of seeing a pedestrian darting into the road before it’s too late.

Expect the unexpected.  Never assume that pedestrians won’t be where they’re not supposed to be.  And never expect a pedestrian to behave rationally – they might be drunk or physically or mentally impaired.

Don’t pass a stopped car on the right.  Especially in the city or a densely populated neighborhood, that car may be stopped to let a pedestrian cross.  If there’s any doubt, wait – it may be obscuring your view of the walker.

Make turns patiently.  As you wait at intersections, looking for a gap in traffic to make your turn, be aware that a pedestrian on your other side may be using the same gap to cross the road.  Be sure you take another complete look around the scene again before you proceed.