As a careful driver, I’m very respectful of pedestrians. I know they have the right of way in the crosswalk and can cross at any corner, even if a crosswalk isn’t painted there. I always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
However, I’m becoming impatient with pedestrians who stroll across the street, look at their cell phones, and eat pizza.
Yes, eat pizza. This week, a young woman began crossing the street carrying a pizza box. I was poised to make a free right turn, which is legal in Washington state, but I waited for her instead of trying to beat her through the crosswalk.
I’ll be darned if she didn’t open the pizza box, take out a slice, and begin eating it as she crossed. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t honk. Next time, I’m going to lay on the horn.
Thousands of pedestrians are killed each year
In 2016, 5,987 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 1.5 hours.
In addition, nearly 129,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2015. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip.
Those most at risk
Pedestrians ages 65 and older made up 20 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2016 and an estimated 15 percent of all pedestrians injured in 2015.
In 2016, one in every five children under the age of 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
Drivers and pedestrians who are alcohol-impaired
Almost half of the crashes that resulted in pedestrian deaths involved alcohol for the driver or the pedestrian. One in every three fatal pedestrian crashes involved a pedestrian with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 grams per deciliter and 13 percent involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 per deciliter.
Additional risk factors
Higher vehicle speeds increase both the likelihood of a pedestrian being struck by a car and the severity of the injury.
Most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, non-intersection locations, and at night.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these pedestrian safety tips for both pedestrians and drivers.
10 walking safety tips
- Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals. Look for a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights.
- Walk on sidewalks whenever they’re available.
- If there’s no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
- Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
- Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
- Locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic if a crosswalk or intersection isn’t available. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross.
- Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you’re seen.
- Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and your judgment.
Nine driving safety tips
- Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. Safety is a shared responsibility.
- Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather.
- Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop, too.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can’t see.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street.
- Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where children are present.
- Be extra cautious when backing up – pedestrians can move into your path.