Spring and summer are beautiful times to walk! Those of us emerging from a long winter are eager to feel the sun on our arms, smell the fresh outdoors, and get moving! Walking is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the U.S. It’s good for us and it’s free. For many, walking is also a necessity to get from place to place.
Yet walking can pose safety risks. Urban walkers must navigate busy street crossings and often-aggressive traffic, while suburban and rural walkers must often walk along roads without sidewalks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in traffic-related accidents in 2016 alone— a 9 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities over one year. Of these deaths, an overwhelming majority (72 percent) involved not using a crosswalk, and three-quarters occurred after dark. The good news is that we can take steps to walk safely in our communities.
My family and I walk a lot and it’s important to keep them— human and furry— safe as we enjoy our evening walks. Here are some tips we follow:
- Wear light or brightly colored clothing and reflective materials visible to drivers. In dark areas, we always wear a light reflective vest and, at night, we carry flashlights. Our dogs have reflectors on their collars.
- If you are walking your dog, be sure he or she is leashed and well-controlled.
- Stay proactive and alert to drivers, distracted walkers, and any other potential hazards.
- Walk on the sidewalks, or in a local park or on a bike path when available.
- Look (and listen!) before crossing the street. Cars can come from many directions, including driveways and parking spots.
- Obey traffic signals and cross in designated areas, such as crosswalks or, if none available, in areas with high visibility.
- Take a break from talking or listening to music on your cellphone when crossing the street.
- Never text and walk! Remember the viral video of the woman texting and walking into a street fountain? Enough said…
In rural areas, roads tend to be higher speeds, narrow, curvy, and unlit. We live by these road safety rules when walking in the country:
- Walk on the shoulder facing traffic. Watch for potholes and roadside ditches that can throw you off balance.
- Move as far off the road as possible when cars come by.
- Watch out for loose dogs and other animals. If you live an area where wild animals or loose dogs are an issue, you may want to carry pepper spray or a loud whistle.
- Be aware of hunting seasons and dress in bright clothing.
Walking is an excellent way to maintain physical, mental, and emotional health and connect with our communities. Follow these tips, and you should reap the many benefits of walking!
Some other resources to check out include:
- (n.d.) Tips for pedestrian safety. AAA Exchange.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Walk this way! Taking steps for pedestrian safety.