Every day, one pedestrian is hit by a motor vehicle in the Capital Region. These collisions almost always result in injury as a human being simply can’t withstand an impact with a 1000-kg machine. Injuries sustained can be very serious and sometimes even fatal. Head injury is leading cause of fatality among pedestrians while the most common non-fatal injuries are fractures, especially to the lower limbs.
Crosswalks are supposed to be a safe place to cross the street but they are only as effective as the people who use them. Approximately 60 per cent of pedestrian collisions happen in crosswalks. It’s a mistake for pedestrians to assume that just because they are in a crosswalk, they are safe.
Enforcement for Pedestrian Safety
Enforcement of safe speeds is very important to pedestrian safety. The faster you drive , the less time you have to recognize and respond to an emergency. And if you do hit someone, the severity of their injury will depend largely on how fast you were traveling. The probability of pedestrian death increases exponentially with speed. For example, at an impact speed of:
- 40 km/h the probability of pedestrian death is approximately 20 per cent
- 60 km/h the probability of pedestrian death is approximately 78 per cent
- 80 km/h pedestrian death is virtually certain.
Nearly 60 per cent of pedestrian collisions are due to driver error. The top three driver errors include:
- Drivers failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian
- Drivers backing up unsafely
- Drivers running off the road.
In 40 per cent of pedestrian collisions, the pedestrian is at fault. The top two pedestrian errors include:
- violating the “DON’T WALK” signal.
Enforcement of existing laws designed to protect pedestrians is a critical piece of promoting pedestrian safety.
Education about Pedestrian Safety
If you want to know how to safely cross the street, ask a child. Adults seem to forget the rules of Point, Pause and Proceed. Not only does this make you more visible to traffic, it gives you legal right of way. It’s important to understand the risks: crosswalks do not stop cars. Pedestrians and motorists must look out for each other and share the responsibility of pedestrian safety
- Even if a driver has the right way, he or she has a legal duty of care to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
- Right of way will not save your life. When crossing a road, always look left, right, and left again, and continue watching while you cross
- Wear bright clothing to help make you more visible to motorists.
Engineering for Pedestrian Safety
There are actions that can be taken to make the roads and physical environment safer for both drivers and pedestrians. For example:
- Improve the visibility of crosswalks by putting up big, highly visible pedestrian crosswalk signs and trimming shrubbery or trees.
- Increase general visibility at intersections by removing billboards, signs, trees, or parked vehicles that may be blocking the sight lines of the intersection.
- Install pedestrian controlled signals at high pedestrian volume intersections.
There is, however, only so much that can be done to make roads safe. It is ultimately up to the road users, both pedestrians and drivers, to use the roads safely and to share the responsibility for pedestrian safety. Marked crosswalks and signage are there to assist the motorists and pedestrians in identifying crossing locations. They can’t stop a car or prevent a pedestrian from stepping out into traffic.