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Charlottesville highlights Pedestrian Safety Month, offers safety tips for walkers, drivers

CharlottesvilleOctober is Pedestrian Safety Month, and the City of Charlottesville is using the designation to remind people walking and driving that staying safe is a shared responsibility.

Speeding, distraction and impairment are among the top most risky behaviors that affect safety on our roads.

While there are many actions that pedestrians can take to stay safe, there are more actions that only the driver can take — such as obeying the posted speed limit.

“Following the speed limit isn’t just the law — it is a critical component to keeping pedestrians safe,” said Amanda Poncy, Charlottesville’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.

Driving at the posted speed limit provides the driver time to “see, identify, and react” in time to brake for pedestrians. If you are speeding, pedestrians can seem to “come out of nowhere.” This is especially true in neighborhoods and around schools. Even if you are going 35 mph in a 20 mph zone, it increases your vehicle’s stopping distance by more than 100 feet. In those few seconds, your vehicle will travel the length of a basketball court, and it could be too late to avoid hitting the pedestrian in front of you.

As the end of Daylight Saving Time approaches and the nights get longer, the risks for pedestrians increase. From September to February, over 30 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m. Also, things like drugs and alcohol, and distraction not only affect someone’s ability to drive, but to walk safely.

Over the past decade, distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of vehicle crashes on our nation’s roads.

“Sending or receiving an average text takes a driver’s eyes of the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving blindfolded at 55-mph for the length of an entire football field,” said Poncy. “Those few seconds of distracted driving could result in hitting a pedestrian in front of you.”

Pedestrian distraction is also a real problem; distraction changes the way pedestrians walk, react, and behave, including safety-related behaviors.

Here are some tips for drivers and pedestrians to keep each other safe on the road:

5 Walking Safety Tips

  1. Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available. If one isn’t available, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
  2. Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road.
  3. Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians, and look for cars in all directions, including those turning. If neither are available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely and watch for traffic as you cross.
  4. Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night. Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.
  5. Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.

5 Driving Safety Tips

  1. Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather.
  2. Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk. And, never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can’t see.
  3. Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see and stop for the crossing pedestrians.
  4. Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street. Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where children are present.
  5. Be extra cautious when backing up—pedestrians can move into your path.

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