Driver's ed classes teach you dozens of invaluable lessons. But do you really know how to keep pedestrians safe on a daily basis? Not all driver's ed classes spend a lot of time here, but it's key to being a responsible driver. After all, pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users. These must-read statistics and safety tips should always be on your mind while you're behind the wheel.
It's Not Easy Being a Pedestrian
In 2020, around 6,516 pedestrians died in traffic crashes, a whopping 17% of all on-road fatalities. That's a big increase from previous years and solidified 2020 as the deadliest year for pedestrians since 1990. While the 2021 figures aren't in yet, it probably wasn't much safer — especially since more people and cars were on the road after the end of lockdowns.
Most pedestrian fatalities (over 75%) happen when it's dark and visibility is limited. However, day-time crashes still happen and they're fairly evenly spread out throughout the week.
The majority of pedestrian accidents happen in urban areas, as could be expected. What may surprise you is that most fatalities don't happen at intersections and that many happen at marked crosswalks.
Do Drivers Have to Yield to Pedestrians?
Generally speaking, drivers have to yield to pedestrians — even if they're crossing in unmarked crosswalks. Although this varies from state to state, many jurisdictions put the responsibility of stopping and yielding on the driver. This protects vulnerable pedestrians who would clearly be the most badly injured in a potential crash.
Even if your state doesn't have yield-to-pedestrian laws, it's still a good principle to follow. After all, being a responsible driver is so much more than just following the law. It's about improvising where it's needed to keep everyone safe.
7 Tips to Share the Roads Safely with Pedestrians
Ready to save some lives? Here are seven rules you'll want to follow:
Look out for pedestrians everywhere. Don't just expect pedestrians at marked crosswalks. They could cross the road anywhere — and this includes badly lit intersections!
Pay special attention around schools and parks. Children are known to dart across the road, so it's your duty to ensure they cross safely.
Never pass a stopped or signaling school bus. All states have laws against this for a clear reason: children will likely be on the road. And because they're short, it's all too easy to not see them behind other cars or the bus.
Never pass on crosswalks. You may not see it, but there could be pedestrians crossing the road. If you pass the driver in front of you, you could run these walkers over.
Stop well before a crosswalk. Otherwise, those crossing pedestrians could be caught in other drivers' blind spots.
Stick to the speed limit, especially in urban or residential areas. The limit's there for a reason. It gives you enough time to brake and come to a stop if a pedestrian suddenly gets in your way.
Expect the unexpected. Pedestrians don't always act how we would expect them to. In fact, about 47% of fatal pedestrian crashesinvolved alcohol, which makes predicting their behavior even harder. The best you can do is keep your eyes on the road, follow the speed limit, and be aware of potential erratic behavior.
Keep Pedestrians Safe While Driving
One final tip to keep pedestrians safe when you're behind the wheel is to enroll in online traffic school. These courses aren't just for people with traffic tickets! They're also a great way to improve and refresh your driving skills.
In these classes, you'll learn more tips on how to drive around pedestrians and take evasive action if needed. Check out our defensive driving classes today!