Ask a Trooper: What are best practices when pedestrians mix with traffic?

Q: On most days I observe college students who are wearing dark jackets and hats, listening to “tunes” while walking, or walking in the same direction as motor traffic rather than facing that traffic. This street has no sidewalks so all the walking occurs close to the cars. I am concerned that these young people are putting themselves at risk of becoming victims of motor vehicle - pedestrian accidents. Are there any laws regarding these behaviors or at least any generally accepted “best practices?”

A: We all need to do our part in reducing the number of pedestrians and bicycle crashes by looking out for each other by avoiding all distractions and obeying all traffic laws.  

In summer months, more people will be out walking, jogging and bicycling. Each year in Minnesota, approximately 35 pedestrians and seven bicyclists are killed because of collisions with motor vehicles.

• From 2011-2015: Pedestrians and bicyclists comprised nearly 11% of all traffic fatalities each year —71% of these fatal crashes occur in urban areas.

• 38% of pedestrians and 27% of bicyclists killed had consumed alcohol.

• 18% of pedestrians killed were not crossing properly.

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

• Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections; do not cross mid block and obey traffic signals.

• Make eye contact with drivers and ensure they see you and will stop.

• Clearly show your intentions to cross.

• Watch for turning and passing vehicles.

• Look across all lanes for moving vehicles before proceeding.

• Continue to be alert and watch for vehicles when walking in a crosswalk — drivers are not always looking for pedestrians.

• Use sidewalks where provided — where no sidewalks are provided, it is usually safer to walk facing traffic.

• Make it easy for drivers to see you — dress in light colors and wear retro-reflective material. Carry a flashlight at night.

• Alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to walk safely, just as they do a person’s ability to drive.

Failure to yield the right-of-way and driver inattention/distraction are the main contributing factors in pedestrian crashes.

Send questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN 55811 or neil.dickenson@state.mn.us.

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