Defensive Walking: Pedestrian Safety Tips

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The majority of road users, particularly drivers, are familiar with the defensive driving concept. Defensive driving is the practice of anticipating the actions of other drivers on the road. Rather than only focusing on your driving, you also pay attention to the vehicles around you. The same principle applies to defensive walking. Rather than keeping your attention focused on yourself, you also need to pay attention to your surroundings. Additionally, you also have to anticipate what the motorists around you will do. In other words, defensive walking is all about recognizing situations that carry higher risks of a crash and taking steps to control these situations as much as possible. Walking also requires thinking ahead about what other road users may do.

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable group of people in and around the roadways. When a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle, there is a higher probability that they will be seriously injured. Defensive walking is a proactive technique that could help you avoid a harmful collision. It requires you to take charge of your safety by being aware of your surroundings and anticipating the actions of those around you. Defensive walking also entails expecting the worst-case scenario, not what other road users should reasonably do according to the law. It is a practice that could help you anticipate or even prevent pedestrian crashes.   

By staying alert and following these tips, pedestrians can have more control of their safety:

v At intersections, anticipate that a driver might run a red light. Look around before stepping into the road even when a light turns green or the walk signal appears. n

v When stepping off the cab, check for cars before stepping out and make sure drivers see you.

v While crossing the road, as you come to the end of the first car, stop and look to see if another car is approaching. If so, can that driver see you? Does that driver have enough time to stop for you? If not, it is advisable to allow the vehicle to pass before continuing.

v  When possible, pick a route that does not require walking behind vehicles. Look for brake lights and listen for engine noise and other cues that a car is about to move. Notice large parked vehicles that may block the view of smaller vehicles as they back up and also look for vehicles backing out of driveways.

v Dress to be visible by wearing light, bright clothes with retro-reflective markings and carry a flashlight or other lighting when walking at night.

v Identify high-risk situations by taking stock of your surroundings and search for red flags such as speeding drivers, lack of a safe crosswalk or night-time driving.

v Take proactive safety measures. Once you ascertain a higher risk of a car hitting you, take steps to improve your safety as much as possible.

v Cross a street safely and as quickly as you can. If a stopped vehicle is blocking your vision, stop when you get to the end of the vehicle to see if another is approaching.

v It is advisable to always use designated crossing points, where these are provided. Where there are no designated crossing points, cross at straight stretches of the road when or where it is safe to do so. As a pedestrian, remember to always yield to vehicular traffic.

v Avoid crossing the road in front of any stationary vehicle or behind any reversing vehicle.

v Where there is a pavement or suitable verge, pedestrians should use it. If there is no pavement or suitable verge, walk on the right side of the road facing on-coming traffic.

v It is advisable to walk in a single file, especially on a narrow road.

v Always avoid distractions of any kind, including using cell-phones when crossing or walking along the road.

v Avoid alcohol and drug impairment when walking.

v Do not allow young children onto the road on their own. Accompany them, hold their hands firmly, and ensure that you keep between them and traffic.

When you are on the road as a pedestrian, you are one of the world’s most vulnerable road user. It is very important to take all steps possible to protect yourself from a crash when walking. Even a minor collision may lead to bone fractures, a traumatic brain injury or organ damages. Defensive walking is about staying alert, assessing your environment and taking steps to minimize the risk of a crash. Always remember not to look down at your phone, chat with friends or engage in other distractions that could compromise your ability to monitor your surroundings. Protect yourself from a potentially fatal crash by never assuming drivers will see you or stop to let you cross. Be a “defensive walker”. #Safety First. 

The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe emerged from the Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Board which originated from a voluntary organisation composed of area associations in Harare (then Salisbury), Bulawayo, Gweru (then Gwelo) and Mutare (then Umtali).

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