October is Pedestrian Safety Awareness Month

400-04533052A fact sheet compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and released this past April revealed that pedestrians were among the few groups that experienced an increase in fatalities for the year 2012. According to the report, 4,743 pedestrians reportedly were killed that year in the U.S. amounting to an average of one pedestrian death every two hours. That number represents the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in five years and a 6% increase over 2011. Of those fatalities, 156 occurred in New Jersey, representing 26.5% of the total 589 traffic fatalities reported in the State.(1)

The fact sheet further disclosed that the almost 5,000 fatalities reported in 2012 represented 14% of all accident fatalities reported in the country. In addition, there were about 76,000 pedestrian injuries reported that same year, which averages out to one injury every seven minutes. Those pedestrian injuries represent 3% of all crash-related injuries reported.(1)

In an effort to cut down on pedestrian-related traffic accidents, HART Commuter Information Services, a nonprofit transportation management group in Hunterdon County, designates October as Pedestrian Safety Awareness Month.(2) Not without coincidence, October is also International Walk to School Month. This year, at least 12 Hunterdon County elementary and intermediate schools joined in the walk-to-school activities.(3)

A large majority of pedestrian fatalities (89%) occur under normal weather condition, according to NHTSA, and about 70% occur at nighttime. The fall represents a particularly hazardous season for pedestrians – the weather is still pleasant enough to attract people outdoors, but the shorter daylight hours pose danger. That’s one reason HART chooses October to step up its efforts to promote awareness about pedestrian safety.(1)

This year, HART selected the theme, “Be Safe: Know Your Space,” a message designed to remind pedestrians of the importance of walking against traffic. With all the distractions vying for the attention of motorists these days, it’s is crucial for pedestrians to be able to make eye contact with drivers of passing cars to make sure they are noticed.(2)

In connection with its pedestrian safety efforts, HART has also participated in International Walk to School Month by coordinating the participation of the Hunterdon County schools through its Hunterdon County Safe Routes to School Program. This campaign promotes the benefits of walking, both for personal health and the environment, in a time when even walking districts experience a majority of their students being driven to school.(3)

These safety campaigns strive to make our roadways safer for all who use them. To accomplish this, HART reminds motorists and pedestrian alike to follow basic safety guidelines. For motorists, those guidelines include:

  • Watching for pedestrians along the side of the roadway and giving them a three-foot clearance whenever possible;
  • Using extra caution during early morning or evening hours, and any time when sun glare impedes vision;
  • Coming to a complete stop and remaining stopped for pedestrians in crosswalks, as is mandated by State law;
  • Avoiding all distractions including texting or talking on cellphones and/or eating or drinking, when behind the wheel.

Pedestrian safety guidelines include:

  • Using crosswalks whenever present and remembering to look left, right and left again before venturing into the street;
  • Using sidewalks if available and, if not, walking against traffic so that they can make eye contact with oncoming drivers;
  • Wearing high-visibility clothing or reflectors, especially when visibility is limited such as early morning and evening hours and overcast days;
  • Avoiding distractions like texting or talking on a cellphone when crossing the street or walking in the roadway;
  • Removing one earbud, if using earphones, in order to hear oncoming traffic.(2)

Walking is a favorite exercise for many people, both young and old and efforts such as these help to keep the roads safe for everyone’s use.

  1. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811888.pdf
  2. http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2014/10/hunterdon_pedestrian_safety_aw.html
  3. http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2014/10/hunterdon_schools_celebrate_in_1.html