With much of Chicago now thinking about how to make certain that the city’s new pilot scooter program runs smoothly without any incidents, in addition to already navigating Divvy bikes and ride-share throughout the city, it is easy to forget that pedestrians make up a large portion of the traffic in the city. While accidents involving bicyclists having recently been widely covered in the news, we must remember that a incredibly high number of Chicagoans are walking to and from work and school each day, especially centrally located within the loop. The good news is that between January 1st and May 31st of 2019 the number of pedestrian deaths decreased 40 percent year over year. As the United States has been experiencing record highs in pedestrian deaths, with a new report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reporting that “about 6,227 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018 – a 4 percent increase over 2017 and the highest mortality rate since 1990.” While those statistics present a scary reality for many commuters across the United States, it is good to see that Chicago has been able to limit the damage that having such a high population of individuals commuting within a city can pose.
On the other hand, those in Chicago must be aware that the city is going to be out in droves now that Summer is here, and Chicago residents can finally enjoy summer. Unfortunately, as we all know, the more people are outside and trying to enjoy the good weather and see what the city has to offer in its warmer months, the more potential there is for accidents to occur. With that being said, it is clear that certain measures can and should be taken by pedestrians to ensure they are safe from dangerous drivers and other commuters. According to the National Safety Council (NSC) has reported, those most at risk based on data from 2017 were “10- to 14-year-olds and 50- to 69-year-olds have 20% or more pedestrian deaths as a percentage off all traffic fatalities.” In response to these statistics, the NSC has provided a list of tips that pedestrians should be following when it comes to staying safe walking. See below for the list:
- Whenever possible, walk on the sidewalk; if not sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic
- Follow the rules of the road, obeying all traffic signs and signals
- Cross streets at crosswalks
- If no crosswalk is available and your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic
- Look left, right and left again before crossing the street, making eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you
- Stay alert – avoid cell phone use and wearing earbuds
- Avoid alcohol and drug impairment when walking
- Wear bright and/or reflective clothing, and use a flashlight at night
- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots
- Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult
Of particular note is safety tip number 6 provided above. As we all know, cell phones are prevalent in every aspect of our lives. Walking to and from work is no different. Similar to how distracted driving is a leading cause in automobile crashes, being distracted while walking is incredibly dangerous and the amount we see it each day is alarming. In response to distracted walking and the issues it poses for not only the individual’s safety, but placing driver’s in poor situations as well, some cities have started enacting laws that aim to curb this bad habit and provide people with tickets if they are seen crossing a sidewalk while being distracted on their cell phones. Although this may appear extreme, many cities are finding that this is absolutely necessary to maintain pedestrian safety. Overall, the lesson we can learn from these alarming statistics is that we must be aware in our morning and evening commutes and we must put our phones away. If we expect drivers to take precaution to prevent injuries from occurring, let’s do ourselves a favor and keep the phones out of our hands while we are walking.