Dear Mahatma: News reports seem to show more and more pedestrians are hit and killed on our highways. I always wonder when I read about those accidents exactly which side of the road the people were walking. I see more and more people walking on the right side of streets. Just the other day I had to almost stop to avoid hitting a woman who was walking on the right side of the street on the pavement. I was meeting oncoming traffic, but I could have hit her if I hadn't been paying attention. Do you have advice on how to stop this hazard? -- News Junkie
Dear Newsie: This topic is certainly timely. What with all this staying at home, people are walking, and walking, and walking. That's how it appears outside our window.
The Fabulous Babe is also a fabulous walker. She allows us to tag along, if we promise to behave.
(We have also seen more small children in strollers than ever before. Speculate not about a pandemic baby boom nine months from now. The boom is here. The problem is that six feet of distance means no pinching of chubby cheeks. Darn.)
We looked up the matter of pedestrian deaths, the source being the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The numbers tell us this: 6,283 pedestrian deaths occurred in 2018, a 3% increase over the previous year. That's in contrast to an overall 2.4% drop in motor vehicle traffic crashes. For the record, 36,560 people were killed in the United States in 2018 in motor vehicle traffic crashes. It breaks the heart to think of so many lives lost.
In any event, the NHTSA has some advice regarding pedestrian safety. Here is some, with wild, arm-waving commentary.
Use sidewalks if they're available. Duh. Let's break this down for simple folk. A sidewalk is a place to "walk" on the "side" of the road. Rather than "in" the road, where "vehicles" can "smush" you.
If there is no sidewalk, then walk facing traffic and as far from it as possible.
Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact if possible. Remember that many drivers are on their cell phones, yelling at their kids.
Wear bright clothing during the day. At night, wear something reflective or carry a flashlight. Avoid dressing in black, because that makes a pedestrian hard to see. Sure, black is chic. But you ain't Zorro.
Don't drink and walk. Repeat: Duh. Also, get off that cellphone.
Watch out for vehicles backing out of driveways or in parking lots. Because it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
Try to cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect to see pedestrians.
No crosswalk or intersection? Find a well-lit area that allows a good view of traffic coming from all ways, including traffic turning left or right.
Now, get out and walk safely. Especially folks fighting the quarantine fifteen.
Vanity plate: PBJ.
Metro on 05/16/2020