Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation established October 2020 as the first National Pedestrian Safety Month. It is important to note that pedestrian safety should be a priority for all road users year-round.
This focus is especially important in Tennessee. Our state garnered a dangerously high ranking of 13 out of 50 states and Washington D.C., for pedestrian fatality rates. So, here are two things you should know.
This time of year can be especially dangerous for pedestrians
Many people would assume that summer is when pedestrians face the most risk, with children out of school and many people out jogging or participating in other activities. However, some studies suggest that the risk of pedestrian accidents increases during the fall and winter.
There are particular risks to be aware of at this time of year, including:
- Low visibility: Visibility is already a risk factor for pedestrians. It only gets worse at this time of year. It is slowly getting darker earlier as we near the end of Daylight Savings Time on November 7. The darkness of the early morning, as well as the early evening, can make it harder for drivers to see pedestrians.
- Halloween: This holiday might be something families look forward to, but it carries significant risk as well. This is one night with not only a high number of pedestrians but a high number of young people out on the sidewalks and streets. On top of that, some drivers may be attending parties where alcohol is served, which could impact a person’s ability to watch for or see vulnerable road users.
- Bad weather: While Tennessee might not often get snow, we get a lot of rain. And while weather always plays a role in road safety, wet conditions mixed with lower visibility create greater risks for pedestrians.
That is why it is critical for pedestrians to be alert, be mindful of their visibility at all times, and always follow traffic laws.
Improving safety is up to drivers – not just pedestrians
There are many steps that pedestrians can take to stay safe when they will be on a roadway. However, drivers should take steps to increase safety too.
They must drive defensively, and be extra aware of other roadway users, including:
As the road user with the larger vehicle – and a greater ability to do more damage – it is essential that drivers understand their role in pedestrian safety.
It bears repeating that pedestrian safety is important every month, not just in October. However, a dedicated month to spread awareness has the potential to help protect pedestrians all year.