People walking to stores and restaurants. Children playing in front yards. Stores opening their doors to street life. These are what vibrant urban and suburban communities look like. But these environments wouldn’t be possible if pedestrians weren’t able to move around safely even as traffic shares the roads with them.
Flagger Force is dedicated to creating safe work zones for drivers and for our team members. But our concern for safety also extends to pedestrians who may be in or near work zones. This post explains common dangers to pedestrians and how drivers can help improve pedestrian safety for everyone’s benefit.
Dangers to Pedestrians
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a pedestrian was killed every 85 minutes, on average, in a traffic crash in 2019. In fact, pedestrian deaths accounted for 17% of all traffic fatalities that same year. In even more recent news from the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), U.S. pedestrian deaths rose 12% in 2021, which is a 40-year high. The reality is that cars and trucks can be fatal hazards to pedestrians.
Risks from Electric Vehicles and Smartphones
Electric vehicles (EVs) are an important new part of our transportation mix, but they present a new hazard to pedestrians because they’re so quiet. When a pedestrian can’t hear a vehicle approaching, there can be an increased risk of getting hit.
Smartphones are another new technology that may increase safety risks for pedestrians because they are distracting for both drivers and pedestrians.
Safety Practices for Kids, Older Adults, and Runners/Joggers
Because kids are active and impulsive, traffic can pose a particular danger for them. As a reference, most fatalities among young pedestrians happen during the time immediately after school, and the majority of those fatalities are boys.
Joggers are another group of pedestrians that can be at high risk on roadways because they are moving quickly and may actually be in the flow of traffic.
Lastly, older adults may be at high risk as pedestrians because of diminished reaction times.
Common Types of Pedestrian-Traffic Accidents
There are several common types of pedestrian-traffic accidents, which all have one thing in common: a driver is distracted or doesn’t see the pedestrian who’s in the roadway.
Pedestrian Darts/Steps Out Mid-block
One common type of pedestrian-traffic accident is when a pedestrian runs or walks out into the roadway in an unmarked area in the middle of the block (not in a crosswalk or at an intersection) and is struck by a vehicle—shown in the diagram above.
Another example in this scenario would be groups of youth playing sports (football, hockey, etc.) in or near the roadway or when youths run into the street to retrieve a ball.
Vehicle Makes a Turn (Right or Left) at an Intersection
Another common type of pedestrian-traffic accident would be when a vehicle turns or merges into the path of a pedestrian without yielding, as shown in the diagram above.
This includes vehicles turning into or out of a driveway or alley, or a turning right at a red light.
Pedestrian Walking or Jogging Along the Road
A third common type of pedestrian-traffic accident, shown in the diagram above, is when a pedestrian is walking or running in the roadway in the same direction as motorized traffic and fails to recognize a vehicle approaching behind them. An accident could occur if the driver is not paying attention or does not see the pedestrian and the pedestrian fails to recognize the threat or tries to quickly get out of the way.
Common pedestrian-traffic accidents source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—visit to discover even more common types.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians
It should be no surprise, but pedestrian safety has to start with pedestrians themselves. These tips may seem obvious, many are, yet the number of pedestrian fatalities indicates that there are still improvements we can make in pedestrian safety.
- Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible. If you must walk in traffic, then walk facing it.
- Cross streets at crosswalks. If one is not available, then cross at a place where you have a good view of oncoming traffic.
- Look right and left before crossing. It is also important to make eye contact with drivers to be sure they can see you.
- Stay alert. Avoid using your cellphone and earbuds while you’re near traffic.
- Beware of the impairment. Alcohol and drug use can increase your risk of an accident even as a pedestrian.
- Wear bright-colored clothing. At night, wearing visible clothing and carrying a flashlight can increase the likelihood that you will be seen.
- Be aware in parking lots. Watch for cars backing up and for ones entering or leaving. Parking lots are busy areas with lots of drivers and pedestrians that can come from any direction.
- Child safety is important. Children under 10 years old should always cross streets with an adult.
Safety Tips for Drivers
Drivers, of course, also play a critical role in keeping pedestrians safe. These tips come from AAA, an organization that’s been serving drivers for decades and knows them very well.
- Watch out for pedestrians at all times. While you may be conditioned to pay attention to other vehicles, know that pedestrians may also be present.
- Be prepared to be surprised. Pedestrians, especially children, may not be where you expect to see them and it’s your job to be prepared to stop or steer away from them.
- Follow posted speed limits at all times.—especially in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic, such as school zones and neighborhood streets with lower speed limits, pedestrians may appear suddenly.
- Avoid distractions. Don’t use your phone while driving because it will take your eyes off the road and distract your attention.
- Be alert in dangerous weather. Turn on your lights and be sure to use your signals in weather situations where your visibility may be limited.
- Be mindful of driveways. Pedestrians can easily enter your path while pulling into and out of driveways.
- Always yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. When you are stopped at a crosswalk, allow enough room between your vehicle and the crosswalk so other drivers can see the pedestrians you have stopped for.
- Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They have stopped to allow pedestrians to pass or make sure the way is clear.
- Do not drive under the influence. This last tip should go without saying.
Commit to Simple Safety Improvements
Improving pedestrian safety sounds easy, and yet fatalities continue to occur. That’s because proper safety practices are easy to describe, but sometimes they’re hard to do. Picking up a smartphone while driving is a strong temptation. Getting lost in the sound of a great song while jogging is easy to do. For a kid, chasing a ball into the street happens without thinking.
But the key to safety improvement is to commit to learn the simple things necessary to keep pedestrians safe, and then do them.