Because walking is such a routine part of everyday life, many
people do not consider the safety aspects of walking. For
instance, most injuries to walkers happen when a vehicle hits
them because the driver could not see the walker or the
walker and driver were not paying close enough attention.
The key to remember is to See And Be Seen. It is a good idea
when walking, especially at dawn, dusk, and other low-light
conditions, to wear light colors or bright clothing so that you can
be easily seen. Fluorescent colors such as blaze orange, hot pink,
and day-glow green are ideal in daytime but not at nighttime.
To See And Be Seen, keep in mind that:
Here are some other safety tips for walkers:
- Walkers are especially at risk during winter. The lower angle
of the winter sun increases the shadows cast by buildings and
trees. Decreased daylight, shadows, and nightfall make it
difficult to see walkers wearing dark or non-reflective clothing.
- Dress to be seen by drivers. If you walk at night, remember
that wearing white clothing does not guarantee drivers can
see you. When walking at night, use a flashlight to make
yourself more visible to drivers and to help light your path. It
is also a good idea to wear reflective or retroreflective materials,
which give off light when headlights shine on them and
can be seen by drivers three times farther than white. Many
stores sell walking shoes, jackets, and safety sports
materials are more effective
than reflective materials,
both are ineffective in
- Wear sturdy shoes that will give you proper footing. A
running or walking shoe that supports your foot from side
to side is best.
- Use paths and sidewalks whenever available. If you must
walk on or near a road, remember to walk facing oncoming
traffic, so that both you and the driver can see each other.
If there's a smooth stable surface alongside the roadway,
that's also a good place to walkjust stay as far to the side
as possible and look for oncoming traffic.
- Cars and other objects can obscure a driver's view. Cars,
buses, hedges, or mounds of snow can block a driver's view.
Even if a driver has stopped to let you cross the street, don't
blindly accept the driver's offer because there may be another
vehicle in the next lane overtaking the stopped vehicle. And
the second driver can't see you because of the stopped vehicle.
- Plan routes to avoid hazardous crossings. The safest crossing
points will have:
Wide avenues that require pedestrians to cross in phases
should have an island where you can stand until the next
"fresh green" (a fresh green is the newly changed green light
on the traffic signal in front of you as you stand facing the
direction you want to cross) or walk signal phase.
- enough room for you to stand back from the roadway,
- crosswalks that are clearly defined on the pavement, and
- crossing signals that indicate when you should cross.
- Stop and look for traffic in all directions before crossing the street, and look to the left, right, and left againeven on a one-way street. And always look left last because that is the direction that cars will be coming from when you first step
off the curb.
- Don't rely only on traffic signs and signals. Assuming that a signal will stop traffic puts you at risk. You must look for traffic even if you are in a crosswalk and you are crossing with the light or with the walk signal. A driver who does not see or obey a sign or signal may also not be paying enough attention to see you.
- Allow plenty of time to cross streets. If you're not sure how long a signal gives you to cross, observe one light cycle so you'll know how much time you have. If the signal does not provide enough time, find another place to cross the street.
Otherwise, cross the street when you get a "fresh green."
- Intersections are especially difficult for older pedestrians.
You are most at risk when first stepping off the curb, because
drivers may not see you until you're actually in the roadway.
Always stop at the curb and look left, right, then left again
for cars before entering the roadway. Don't assume
the drivers see you unless they signal for you to
- Turning vehicles can be especially dangerous
at intersections. Drivers are concentrating
on making their turns and avoiding
oncoming traffic, so they might not
see you! Exaggerate your head turns so
that you look in all directions, including
behind you. Make sure you look
for vehicles making right turns on
red and for vehicles making
left turns. Always
make sure the
driver of a
vehicle that is
- Understand crosswalk signals. To make learning crosswalk signals easier,
let's compare them to the traffic lights we use when driving.
- The steady DON'T WALK signal is
like the red light, it means that you should stop at
the curb and wait for the next WALK signal or green
- The flashing DON'T WALK signal, like the yellow
caution light, means that you shouldn't start to cross
the street. However, if you are in the street when the
signal begins flashing, don't stop or return to the
curb. Continue to walk as fast as you can, comfortably,
until you reach the other side or a pedestrian island.
- The WALK signal, like the green light, does not mean
that it is safe for you to start crossing without looking.
It is best, even on a WALK signal, to check traffic
for turning vehicles or oncoming cars. Before crossing
at an intersection, you may want to wait for a "fresh
green" light because it will give you the most crossing
time. If there is a push button, press the button and
wait for the WALK signal to come on.
- Some areas are
using a new WALK signal that counts down the seconds
remaining for you to cross the intersection safely.
When the seconds run out, a steady DON'T WALK light
will come on because the traffic light is about to change.
- Walk with a friend. Walking with a friend will add to the
pleasure of your walk and increase your safety as well, as
long as you are watching out for each other. Enjoy your conversation,
but don't let it distract you from watching out for road and
traffic hazards as you walk.
- Be especially careful in parking lots. Parking lots create
special hazards because cars may be turning quickly or
backing out of a parking space. Be sure to look for backup
lights and listen for engine noise.
- Wait for a "fresh green" when crossing at signals. Don't
start to cross the street unless the traffic signal has just
turned green. By waiting for a fresh green, you allow
yourself the most time to cross the intersection safely.