Utah has experienced a run of tragic deaths in the past few weeks. The Wasatch Front has seen five pedestrians die in auto-pedestrian accidents since early December 2015, two of the five were in high school. They serve as a stark reminder that both pedestrians and drivers must be more aware of their surroundings and traffic patterns.
Unfortunately the recent tragedies are indicative of a growing pattern on Utah's roadways. 2015 saw 47 auto-pedestrian fatalities, up ten from 2014. The Utah Department of Transportation reports that pedestrian deaths have been steadily rising since 2010 and that the majority of these deaths occur in northern Utah.
Here are few safety reminders for drivers and pedestrians alike. Please remember these and actively help make our roads safer for everyone.
Be Bright and Reflective.
Always be sure to wear bright and reflective clothing when walking at dawn and dusk. It is no coincidence that these are the most common times for auto-pedestrian accidents. Drivers have a hard time against the contrasts of dark and light, and not wearing bright reflective clothing makes it easy for you as a pedestrian to blend in with a driver's background.
Always Use Crosswalks.
Crosswalks are there for a reason. They are often well-lit, well-marked, and feature warning signs for drivers. Though they don't guaranteed your safety, they are designed to be a safe space for pedestrians to safely cross roadways. When needing to cross busy streets, don't chance it - find a crosswalk.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings.
A common theme in many auto accident cases is a lack of attention. It's well-known we live in a world that constantly pulls at our attention. As a pedestrian, it is just as important you pay attention to roads, traffic patterns, and your surroundings as it is a driver. Never trust that a vehicle sees you and always be aware of where you are in relation to passing vehicles.
Stay on the Lookout.
Drivers need to be aware of their surroundings. They share the road with more than just other drivers. There are pedestrians and cyclists that will be on shoulders, sidewalks, and utilizing crosswalks. Stay off handsets and phones and be conscious of areas where pedestrian activity may be increased.
Know When to go Slow.
One of the biggest things drivers can do to prevent auto-pedestrian accidents is recognizing areas where pedestrian traffic is highest. Around schools, restaurants, movie theaters, and other social locations, it is key to practice defensive driving and be on high alert for pedestrians. Looking at auto-pedestrian accident records, a surprising number occur in areas where drivers should have been on a high pedestrian alert. Recognizing these areas and adjusting your driving habits to them will go a long way in preventing accidents.
Don't Trust Pedestrians.
Too often drivers are expected to get the right away from pedestrians. As drivers it is important to make eye contact with pedestrians and plan on the pedestrian not waiting for you. Some pedestrians, especially cyclists and children, may unexpectedly veer off of shoulders and into traffic lanes. Others may dart across a crosswalk on as a "flashing hand" goes solid or as warning lights stop blinking. Just because you are the vehicle, it doesn't guarantee you'll be given the right away. Be alert and prepared to slow or even stop for pedestrians. Never assume they're aware of you.