The COVID-19 pandemic has left some of the world’s busiest streets nearly empty. Photos of downtown Chicago, Times Square, and Paris at dinner time show just a few stragglers. You might think that this means that streets are safer for pedestrians, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Many of the drivers that remain are engaging in more reckless behavior, and a lot of them are distracted due to current circumstances. Because of this, it is important to be as careful as possible while getting your steps in.
Take Extra Care at Crosswalks
Crosswalks, designed to improve pedestrian safety, are some of the most dangerous places for pedestrians to be. Consider the “walk” button that pedestrians often have to push to trigger a walk signal; some communities have deactivated and blocked off these buttons to prevent the unintentional spread of germs on them. This means that pedestrians have to hope that drivers are paying attention and that they’ll look before turning into a jogger or biker. If you have to use crosswalks, keep an eye out for those turning across your walkway and be prepared to wait if they don’t notice you.
Avoid Busy Roads
Though the pandemic has left many roads empty, there are still pockets of congested traffic—particularly around hospitals, grocery stores, and other essential businesses. If at all possible, redirect your routes so you avoid these areas. Additionally, a number of states have experienced protests in response to safe-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. Stay up-to-date on local news and traffic reports as traffic tends to be gridlocked by aggressive drivers. This combination creates serious danger for pedestrians just trying to get to work or get some exercise.
Know Your Community’s Busy Hours
As you spend more time walking around, you may get a feel for when the roads are busy and when everything tends to quiet down. There are still quite a few essential workers heading into their places of business every day, and you should try to stay off the roads during this time. Keep in mind that these workers may be under enormous stress. They are likely worried about being exposed to COVID-19 as part of their daily work. This creates a situation where distracted driving is nearly inevitable. Save your walks for quiet times and try to avoid walks when people are going to work or coming home from work.
Take Extra Precautions at Night
Nighttime walking is generally more dangerous than daytime walking, and that is even more true now. The risks of distracted driving go up dramatically at night, since people tend to take fewer precautions and assume that the roads are empty. Additionally, nighttime walks put you at risk of encountering a fatigued driver. If you must walk after dark, attach reflective strips to your clothes, stay on roads that have sidewalks, and don’t use headphones. You want to stay completely aware of your surroundings.
Assume Every Driver is Not Paying Attention
This tip may sound like overkill, but it’s one that can truly save your life. As a pedestrian, you are at greatest risk in any accident. Because of this, you have to take every precaution possible to protect yourself. When you’re walking, you don’t know which drivers are paying attention and driving safely and which ones are distracted by bad news, overwork, or stress. The solution: just assume that every driver is distracted or fatigued. Waiting until you know it’s safe to cross the road protects you from reckless, fatigued, or distracted drivers.
Make Sure You Have a Charged Phone and Identification
No matter how many precautions you take, accidents do happen. If you end up being the victim of a pedestrian accident, you must be able to call for help and get the care you need. Even if you’re just going out for a few minutes, keep identification on you at all times and ensure that your phone is charged. While most drivers stop and do the right thing when they cause an accident, hit-and-run accidents do happen, and pedestrians are often left picking up the pieces.
If you go on walks frequently, consider using the “share location” feature available on most smartphones to let a family member know where you are when you’re out. This way, they are able to call for help if you don’t come home as expected or if you are hit by a car and you’re unable to call emergency services.
Walking is one of the best ways to stay healthy, especially in a time when our immune systems need all the help they can get. By following these tips, you can stay safe. If you are hurt in an accident, you deserve experienced legal representation to help you recover your losses. Call Mann & Potter, PC today to discuss your case.