Walking is good for your health, and it’s good for the environment too. But before you head out on foot for a stroll, power walk, or errand, there are important safety tips to remember. Pedestrians—people who travel by foot, wheelchair, stroller, or similar means—are among the most vulnerable users of the road. On their own, pedestrians are not a danger to themselves or others, but it’s the conflict between motorists and pedestrians that is potentially dangerous.
What Pedestrians Want Motorists to Know
Sometimes pedestrians do have the right-of way
- Drivers are required to yield to pedestrians crossing in intersections with or without a crosswalk.
- Blind pedestrians, who are using a white cane or a guide dog, always have the right-of-way when they enter the street, regardless of the state of crosswalks or traffic signals. Respect their best efforts to cross safely.
Not all pedestrians behave as you’d expect
- Watch out for shorter pedestrians including children and those using wheelchairs, scooters or strollers.
- One speed does not fit all! Pedestrians have varying physical abilities and may move slower or quicker than motorists expect.
- Blind pedestrians may not make eye contact with motorists, but may try to figure out what the motorist is doing by listening to traffic movement and engine noise.
- Be patient. Some pedestrians may need more time to make decisions. Those with some disabilities may be more easily intimidated or overwhelmed.
Watch and be aware of pedestrians
- Pedestrians may encounter hazards when crossing the street such as tripping over railroad tracks. Don’t assume they’ll be out of your lane when you get there.
- Pedestrians may not hear your hybrid or electric vehicle. When you notice blind pedestrians, use your voice rather than your horn to let them know you’re there.
- Look before making right turns. Always yield to pedestrians.
- If the sidewalk is blocked or inaccessible, pedestrians may be forced into the street. Watch for pedestrians, including those using mobility devices in the bike lane.
- Please allow pedestrians a clear path. Don’t block the crosswalk or the sidewalk.
Operate your vehicle with care
- Don’t pass or go around another vehicle that may be stopped for a pedestrian.
- Remember that most cars weigh 20 times the average person and even at very slow speeds, a car can easily injure or kill a pedestrian.
- Put away your electronic devices. Distracted driving is especially hazardous for pedestrians.
What Motorists Want Pedestrians to Know
Learn and obey traffic laws
- Please don’t jay walk. Motorists are expecting you to cross at intersections or in crosswalks.
- Be extra cautious when using a mid-block crosswalk. Motorists may not be expecting to stop.
- At signalized intersections, only walk when the walk signal is on.
- Do not cross a street where it is prohibited.
Vehicles can’t stop as fast as you think
- Motorists may not be able to react to unpredictable or sudden moves, like darting out from between cars or starting to cross where visibility is limited.
- It takes about 11 car lengths or 150 feet for an average vehicle traveling at 25 mph to stop, including the driver’s reaction time.
- Know where you have the right-of-way but make smart choices. You are still responsible for your own safety. Never forget that in a collision the pedestrian will be the loser!
Don’t assume that every motorist sees you
- Wear reflective and visible clothing, especially at night. Carry a flashlight or add lights to backpacks.
- Make eye contact or turn your head in motorists’ direction.
- Stop, look and listen before you enter a street.
- Stay predictable when crossing the street. Don’t turn around, stop or back up.
- Put away your electronic devices. Distracted walking is especially hazardous for pedestrians.
Download a printable version from the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission.
Visit the Community Traffic Safety Coalition for more resources on pedestrian safety.