As a pedestrian, taking certain precautions not only reduces the likelihood of accidents, but increases the odds of a successful claim should an accident occur. Here is a helpful guide that will outline steps you can take to prevent being involved in an accident.
Do: Cross at marked crosswalks and intersections.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but the number of pedestrian accidents would plummet almost immediately if everyone observed this simple rule. The majority of pedestrian accidents actually occur away from intersections—76% in fact. It’s largely a matter of drivers’ expectations. They expect to see pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections, and, as a result, they often slow down and pay more attention—a surefire formula for accident prevention. Accidents that take place at intersections are also far less severe than those that occur on major roads, which have few, if any, intersections. Due to higher speed limits, around 70% of fatal pedestrian accidents occur on major roads.
Do: Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible.
Walking on the sidewalk instead of the road is another obvious-sounding but nonetheless important way to avoid being hit. Very few pedestrian accidents, as you would probably guess, occur on sidewalks. In areas where there is a sidewalk, drivers will be even less likely to expect a pedestrian in the road, and when drivers don’t expect to see you, they very well might not.
Do: Check for cars turning before beginning to cross.
Consider that both pedestrians and drivers making a turn—whether to the left or right—usually have green lights at the same time. So imagine what would happen if everyone acted as though a green light meant it was automatically safe to proceed. You as a pedestrian have the right-of-way, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe or invulnerable. Make sure to look over your left shoulder for cars making a right turn.
Do: Make sure the drivers see you before crossing.
Try to make eye contact with approaching drivers, including those making a turn. That will help ensure that you know that the driver sees you and the driver knows that you seem him. Drivers too will hopefully be looking to meet your gaze as confirmation that you intend to cross.
Do: When walking on a road with no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road.
Few people are even familiar with, and even fewer follow, this important recommendation. We are so ingrained to walk and drive on the right side that it strikes us as inherently dangerous to walk against the traffic direction. The opposite, in fact, is true. If you must walk on a road with no sidewalk—which is to be avoided if possible—it’s safer to do so on the left side of the road. You’re more likely to see approaching cars in advance, giving you more time to get out of the way and negating the possibility that you’ll take an unintentional sideways step at just the moment a car is passing you from behind.
Do: Be especially cautious at night.
It should come as no surprise that, according to recent statistics, the majority of fatal pedestrian accidents occur between 6 PM and midnight. Pedestrians—who, unlike cars don’t come equipped with headlights—are much more difficult to see at night. Even on a clear night, for example, drivers’ visibility is diminished—the headlights cannot follow the curves of the road. What they can see is limited to the angle and range of the beams, giving them visual access to far less of the environment than during the day. If you must walk on the road at night, make sure to wear bright clothing to heighten your visibility. Wearing reflectors and carrying a flashlight is even better.
Don’t: Cross between two parked cars.
It’s especially dangerous to cross in the middle of the block between two cars parked on the side of the road. This is another common accident scenario. The danger derives at least partly from the fact that the pedestrian must be more or less in the road in order to see if it’s safe to cross. The pedestrian is also camouflaged by the parked cars, and any situation where both the pedestrian’s and the driver’s view of each other is compromised, accidents are likely to occur.
Don’t: “Dart out” or run into the street.
This one may also sound too obvious to mention, but so-called “dart out” accidents are disturbingly common, where the pedestrian appears suddenly in front of the car and the driver is unable to stop in time. Dart out accidents are also especially disadvantageous for the pedestrian because the driver is rarely judged to be at fault, which puts strict limits on the compensation that the pedestrian is entitled to.
Don’t: Enter the road on a “don’t walk” indicator.
All but the most safety-conscious among us have, at least once in our lives, probably stepped out into an intersection after the green pedestrian light indicating “WALK” turned into a flashing red “DON’T WALK.” Nonetheless, it’s for a reason that these indicators begin to flash when they do: there is too little time left to safely cross the street before the light changes.
Don’t: Assume that a car will stop for you.
A big one, to be sure. Many of the accidents I’ve dealt with over the years have involved one person putting too much faith in another. Drivers will do what they want, not what we as pedestrians want them to do or what we think they’re going to do. They see what they see, not what we assume they see, nor even necessarily what is right in front of them. There are a lot of inattentive, inexperienced and plain ole bad drivers out there, and we would all do well to remember that. As I pointed out before, simply because you have the right of way does not guarantee your safety. The frequency of accidents is proof that people make mistakes. So walk defensively.
Don’t: Walk behind a car that is backing up.
Yet another frequent cause of pedestrian accidents. Drivers backing up will hopefully, at the very least, check their rear-view mirror before pulling out, but many don’t look over their shoulder and check their side view mirrors as well. That means that they see what’s behind them at the moment they look, but not who may be crossing their path as they start backing up. Large vehicles like SUVs and trucks, due to their height, pose an even greater risk. Their drivers are especially likely to back into a pedestrian crossing behind them, and the likelihood increases the taller the vehicle, the shorter the pedestrian and the closer he or she is to the rear of the vehicle. Stories of parents driving an SUV and backing over their child are distressingly prevalent for this reason.