Whether by car, train, bus, bike, or other, we all have different preferences when it comes to getting to our destination, but we do have one thing in common — at some point, Everyone is a Pedestrian. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Region 7, which includes Iowa, wants to remind everyone that choosing safe behaviors behind the wheel could save your, or someone else’s life.
There was a 12.5% increase in the number of pedestrians killed in traffic crashes when comparing 2021 with the previous year, a total of 7,388 deaths. That averages out to 20 pedestrian fatalities a day or one pedestrian fatality every 72 minutes!
First responders, including law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and tow truck drivers become especially vulnerable pedestrians when performing roadside job duties. Inattentive driving and speeding are two of the top causes of pedestrian collisions along the roadside and within work zones. The Move Over law, enacted in all 50 states, requires drivers to slow down and move over when approaching stopped emergency vehicles with emergency lights activated, so long as it’s safe to do so. To help emphasize this life-saving law, Saturday, October 21, 2023, has been designated National Move Over Day.
Every state also has a law requiring drivers to stop when a school bus stop arm is extended. This is because the greatest risk to a child is not the school bus ride, but from walking to and from their bus. From 2012–2021, 240 school-age children (18 years old and younger) died as occupants of school buses and other motor vehicles or while walking. Of those 240 deaths, 92 were children who were walking. Among pedestrians of all ages killed in school bus-related incidents, there were 1.6 times more fatalities among pedestrians (203) than occupants of school buses (126).
“Motorists driving unsafely due to being distracted or from drugs and/or alcohol impairment has too many people paying with their lives,” said Regional Administrator Susan DeCourcy. “A collision involving a pedestrian is more likely to involve a fatality than a collision between two vehicles.” That’s why it’s every motorist’s responsibility to drive attentively and safely — especially where there is a higher chance of pedestrian traffic.”
Safety is not just motorists’ responsibility. It’s recommended that pedestrians traveling long distances wear bright colors during the day and shine lights or wear high-visibility clothing with reflectors when it is dark to help decrease crash risks. Almost 77% of pedestrian-related accidents happen when it is dark outside, so pedestrians should do what they can to ensure they are seen by motorists. Additionally, nearly every motorist is a pedestrian at some point throughout the day, so it’s always important for everyone to be aware of nearby traffic before taking their first step, and never make assumptions.
“Pedestrians can never assume that a motorist will see them, so it’s imperative to exercise awareness and caution at all times when walking on and near roadways,” said DeCourcy. “All of us, motorists and pedestrians, can do our part to ensure that everyone is safe both on and near the road.”
Whether you’re a concerned resident, a parent, or a caregiver, you can help ensure your loved ones and neighbors are safe while enjoying a walk in your community. Remember, at some point in the day, Everyone is a Pedestrian.
For more information and safety tips, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/pedestrian-safety.