Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities account for 1/5th of all traffic fatalities in the US. According to the CDC, just under 6000 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2017 and based on past data, pedestrians are 50% more likely to be killed in a car crash than passenger vehicle occupants. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, average cyclist fatalities are around 850/year. A lot of these fatalities could have been avoided if motorists had followed traffic rules and exercised caution.
If you are a new car driver, it is important to be aware of other people you share the road with. These include cyclists and pedestrians who have the same driving rights as everyone else. Being aware of cyclists and pedestrians on the road is also an important aspect of driver education. The following tips can help young motorists share the road safely with pedestrians and cyclists and avoid any accidents:
Safety Tips for Motorists
- Always be vigilant and look out for any pedestrians or cyclists. Check your blind spots to be sure.
- Turn on the headlights of your vehicle during dawn and dusk. This will ensure that pedestrians can spot you from a distance in low light conditions.
- Slow down in areas where you see a lot of pedestrians and always drive within the speed limit. Drive slowly near school zones, and always be on the lookout for pedestrians.
- Look out for pedestrians and cyclists before opening your car door. Always check your mirrors to look out for pedestrians before you pull out of a parking lot.
- Do not drive at high speeds next to cyclists as it can off-balance them. Alternatively, keep a distance of 3 feet to avoid this situation. Use the same approach when you see pedestrians on the shoulder of the road.
- Always stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. Do not stop in a crosswalk when there is a red light.
- Always yield the right of way to pedestrians and cyclists, especially at intersections.
- Do not use your smartphone while driving. Use a hands-free device.
- Do not tailgate cyclists. Always keep a safe distance between them and your vehicle.
- When making a turn or changing lanes, always use the turn signal and check for oncoming cyclists when turning.
- Be aware that pedestrians have the right-of-way if you make a left or right turn.
If all motorists follow the above traffic rules, there is a high likelihood that fatalities for pedestrians and cyclists will decline in coming years. The best way to ensure that you are aware of all the latest traffic laws is to opt for a defensive driving course online (on sites like dmvedu.org).
It’s not always the motorists who are at fault. Sometimes pedestrians and cyclists also fail to exercise caution, which leads to accidents. Pedestrians and cyclists can keep themselves and others safe by following the below tips:
Safety Tips for Pedestrians
- Cross streets only at designated intersections and crosswalks with signals. Be very careful if the crossing has no signal.
- Look both ways before you cross the street.
- Wear bright clothes after dark if possible. This will allow drivers to spot you easily.
- Wear something with a reflective element or tape if you are exercising or jogging during dawn or dusk.
- Do not run between cars into the street.
- Always stay on the sidewalk. It is the safest place for pedestrians. Avoid bike lanes.
- Do not assume that a driver sees you. Where possible, try to make eye contact with the driver before crossing the road.
Safety Tips for Cyclists
Traffic laws apply to everyone on the road, and cyclists are no different. Therefore, it is important for cyclists to pay attention to the right of way rules and follow all road signs and signals.
- Always stop at red lights and stop signs.
- Use the front lights when driving a bike at night or during low light conditions.
- Follow the lane markings and ride with the traffic flow.
- Use hand signals when turning to let motorists know your intent.
- Do not wear headphones while on the road. You will not be able to hear approaching traffic.
- Always wear a protective helmet.
- Do not use your smartphone while riding the bike.
- Do not use your bike under the influence of alcohol.
- Always check for oncoming traffic when entering streets or intersections.
- Always double-check if your red rear light/reflector is working correctly.
- Use the bike lane when possible.
- Watch out for potholes/debris on the side of the road.
- When passing next to parked cars, ride slow, and watch out for drivers opening car doors.
- Do not ride on sidewalks.
Following traffic rules and laws is essential as they are there for a reason. They reduce the possibilities of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. When on the road, there are several hazards and obstacles, and by following consistent traffic rules, safety is ensured for everyone – be it motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians (including motorcyclists). By following speed limits, traffic signals, and give way signs, traffic flow is maintained, and everyone goes smoothly where they want to.
When everyone knows and follows the same consistent rules, the chances of confusion or accidents are less. Every aspect of the traffic element plays a crucial role, from warning road users about obstacles to managing traffic flow using signs. But what is more important is that these signs and rules help keep new drivers safe in the first place. Cyclists and pedestrian rules, signs, and laws allow everyone to share the road safely.