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Pedestrian Safety

Walking is a great way to exercise, recreate, and a great way to get around. The physical and psychological benefits of walking are well documented. Walking helps control obesity, helps prevent heart disease, and contributes to your overall quality of life. When you walk, you have more interactions with friends, family and neighbors than you do while driving. Walking helps you leave a smaller footprint on the environment too. By choosing to walk, you are making a healthy decision for your body, your mind, and your environment. However, as a pedestrian, you are a vulnerable user of the road system. As a user of the road system, you have responsibilities just like motorists.

It is imperative that we all know how to walk carefully so we get to where we are going safely. As a group, pedestrians comprise about 6 percent of all highway fatalities each year. On average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic crash every 113 minutes and injured in a traffic crash every 8 minutes in the United States. On average, a pedestrian is hit by a motor vehicle in Maine once a day. In the past five years, there have been 1358 crashes and 51 fatalities involving pedestrians in Maine. In 2008, 4,378 pedestrians were killed in the United States in traffic crashes, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.

General Safety Tips for all Pedestrians

  • Look and Listen
    Accidents involving pedestrians occur throughout the year because of pedestrian inattention and carelessness. Always be alert while walking and don’t assume that motorists, bikers and other pedestrians can see you.
  • See and be seen - Dress brightly
    • Do not assume that motorists can see you.
    • Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking at dusk, dawn, or night.
    • Carry a flashlight if you are walking at night.
    • Stay out of a driver's blind spot at all times.
    • Make eye contact with motorists when crossing the street.
    • Do not let children play near traffic or cross the street by themselves. Children are small, and drivers may not see them if they run into the street.
  • Walk on the sidewalk - Walk against traffic if necessary
    The sidewalk is the safest place for pedestrians to walk. You should always walk on the sidewalk if one is available. If you must walk on or near a road, remember to walk against the flow of traffic. This allows you to see oncoming traffic and to react if necessary.
  • When crossing the street, use a crosswalk
    Properly located and warranted marked crosswalks are the safest places for pedestrians to cross the road because they are more visible and motorists are more aware that a pedestrian may be crossing. Maine law requires motorists to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Even though motorists must yield, it is important to wait, look both ways, make eye contact, and proceed only when you know it is safe. When at a crosswalk with a signal, wait for the WALK signal before crossing the street. It is very unsafe to jaywalk diagonally across any intersection. The safest crossing points will have:

    • Enough room for you to stand back from the roadway
    • Crosswalks that are clearly defined on the pavement
    • Crossing signals that indicate when you should cross
    • A crossing guard to stop traffic to allow you to cross
  • Allow plenty of time to cross streets
    When crossing the street it is important to allow enough time to cross from one side to the other even when using a crosswalk. A signalized crosswalk usually allows plenty of time to cross the street, however be aware of how much time the signal allows you. A crossing guard gives you as much time as you need to cross the street.

    Follow these rules when crossing the street:
    • Cross at a cross walk whenever you can.
    • Stop, look left, look right, and look left again before crossing.
    • Cross with a crossing guard’s help when they are available.
    • At traffic lights, wait for the white WALK sign before crossing.
    • Watch for turning traffic at intersections even when using a crosswalk.
    • Wait, watch, and wave. Be certain to wait until all cars have stopped in all lanes and drivers see you before you cross the road. Wave to cars as you cross to thank them.
    • Walk at a constant speed and in a predictable manner.
  • Walk defensively
    Don't simply assume that motorists know that by law, pedestrians have the right-of-way. Many of them don't. Be on guard at all times as a pedestrian.
  • Don’t be distracted
    As a pedestrian, it is easy to be distracted by your environment, listening to music, talking on a cell phone. However it is important to remain alert and aware of your surroundings in order to remain safe. Pay attention to traffic and other hazards of the road.
  • Watch out for cars
    Both pedestrians and motorists have responsibilities when using the roadways. Operating a motor vehicle is very difficult. It is easy to become distracted behind the wheel. Motorist distractions are a primary cause of pedestrian crashes. Therefore as a pedestrian, do not assume that motorists see you. Make yourself visible and don’t assume the right of way.
  • Plan safe walking routes
    Some walking routes are safer than others. Use the routes that have the least amount of traffic, the largest sidewalk, the least amount of street crossings and the best lighting.
  • Be alert to engine noise
    Parked vehicles pose a major threat to pedestrians. Be aware of cars that have turned on their engines, they will be pulling out soon. Be alert

For More Information

Maine Pedestrian Safety Action Plan

Over the last year, MaineDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have worked on the development of a Statewide Pedestrian Safety Campaign. An in-depth analysis was conducted on motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians, including frequency and contributing factors. This analysis was used to develop target messages for the pedestrian safety campaign. The results of these efforts have the potential to save lives and reduce injuries, and to educate the traveling public of the importance of safe driver and pedestrian behaviors.

If you would like to develop your own pedestrian safety action plan in order to improve pedestrian conditions in your community, check out the Safety Action Plan (pdf) from the Federal Highway Administration