When is the last time you were driving your car and had a near-miss with a pedestrian because you weren’t paying attention? As a pedestrian, perhaps you darted out into a crosswalk trying to beat the light, only to have forced a car to slam on its breaks to avoid hitting you. Maybe you live near a college town and drive through it often, wondering just why those college kids can’t use the crosswalks anyway.
No matter where they encounter each other, drivers and pedestrians often have the same ultimate goal in mind: to get where they are going safely. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three pedestrian groups that are most at risk of an accident. These are people age 65 and older, children between the ages of 5 and 9, and people who are under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
In reality, whether you see them or not, pedestrians are all around us. As a driver, you never know who is going to cross in front of you. Staying aware is your best defense. Drivers and pedestrians share the road in one way or another. Doing so safely is the responsibility of everyone, but drivers can follow these tips to be sure that they are keeping themselves and pedestrians safe.
Know Where You Will Encounter Kids
Children do not have the cognitive ability to make quick, smart decisions. They simply don’t. As an adult driver, know where you will encounter children. Be extra cautious when you are driving near schools, playgrounds, and parks. Be vigilant when you are near a school bus…especially if it is stopped. Avoid passing a stopped school bus, even if its lights aren’t flashing. You never know when a child will dart out from the front or rear of a bus.
Slow Down at Crosswalks
Drivers don’t always respect crosswalks. These marked lanes protect drivers and pedestrians. People on their feet are given a safe place to cross and drivers know where they can reasonably expect pedestrians to be on the road. When you are approaching a crosswalk, slow down. Pedestrians know that these are “safe” zones and sometimes assume that vehicles are looking out for them when they aren’t. Be one that is.
Let’s see if you remember this from driver’s ed: Any intersection is a crosswalk. That’s right. Any intersection. If there are no marked crosswalk lines, it is still a safe zone for pedestrians, especially those who are obeying traffic signals. Do not assume that a pedestrian will not pop out in front of you in an intersection simply because there are no lines painted on the pavement.
Backing out of a driveway becomes habitual. Chances are that you have done it so many times that if you try to think back to pulling out of the driveway this morning, you will be unable to recall it specifically. Of course, you know that you pulled out…you made it to work. But do you really remember the details? No. It is the same phenomenon that causes us to get to work or school without really remembering how we got there. It’s a sort of auto-pilot.
Don’t rely on just your mirrors when you are backing out of your driveway. Turn your neck and body to look behind and to the sides of your car. Roll down your windows and listen for a moment. You may hear something that alerts you to a pedestrian that you can’t see.
Parking lots are areas that are virtually waiting for accidents to happen. Parking lots are full of driving vehicles and pedestrians. As you are driving through a parking lot, stay alert and on the lookout for pedestrians, especially little ones. Parents and guardians putting packages into trunks or getting everyone out of the car can become distracted and lose sight of their children quickly.
Distracted driving puts everyone at greater risk. So does distracted walking. Drivers and pedestrians alike should be paying attention to what they are doing, not to their cell phones or other mobile devices. Avoid the temptation to answer a text message or a phone call whether you are driving or walking.
Slick, wet roads inhibit your ability to stop. That means that if you are driving and a pedestrian darts out in front of you, you won’t be able to stop as quickly. It can also be more difficult to see pedestrians during inclement weather events. Know the conditions of the road and adjust your driving accordingly.
Pedestrians with Special Needs
If you see someone on the sidewalk who is using a cane, walker or wheelchair, keep a close eye on them as you approach an intersection or crosswalk. If you see someone who is blind walking with a white cane, know that they have the right of way no matter what. This is also true of a person who is blind with a service dog. While people with special needs are not immune from the laws of the road, it is far safer if we just all look out for each other.
Drivers and pedestrians can share the road safely if everyone pays attention to what they are doing. Instead of feeling as though you are in the right because you are behind the wheel or you are in the right because you are walking, stay alert and focused on safety. When we all cooperate and care about one another, we are all kept that much safer.
If you have been involved in a pedestrian accident in West Palm Beach, we want to hear from you. A member of our team will provide you with a free case evaluation and advise you of your rights under current law. We know that you are under a great deal of stress and we want to assist you as you begin to move forward with your recovery. Call us now or browse our personal injury attorney website for more information about our firm and how we can help you. Our Orlando pedestrian accident lawyers can help you!