Walking is a basic and perhaps the most common mode of transport, and the number of pedestrians killed in road accidents remains high. Pedestrians are most susceptible to heavy injuries and fatalities due to direct impact from vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian fatalities stood at 6,283 in 2018. Speeding, careless driving, negligence, ignorance of traffic rules, driving under influence, poor road design, and lack of road infrastructure are some common factors that contribute to road crashes involving pedestrians.
Therefore, creating a road network that promotes pedestrian safety and spreading awareness about traffic rules and best practices to facilitate a safe environment for road users are of paramount importance.
Creating walkable communities goes a long way in ensuring the safety of pedestrians and bicycle users in a neighborhood. Towards this end, neighborhoods should first identify road/traffic problems and risk factors that pose a danger to pedestrian safety.
The next step should focus on engaging residents, securing their support, raising awareness about the identified problems, and coming up with possible solutions. These solutions may involve making infrastructural improvements such as creating sidewalks, installing pedestrian crossing signs and signals, etc., educating road users about traffic rules and best practices, and enforcing relevant laws and regulations, often with the support of local authorities.
You may refer to FHWA’s guide for creating safer communities for walking and biking provides rather useful and detailed information about safe walkable environments.
Uncontrolled pedestrian crossings are sidewalk/designated walkway and roadway intersections without any traffic control, such as a traffic signal or a STOP sign. With inadequate pedestrian crossing accommodations, such crossings often lead to higher pedestrian crash rates.
Measures such as enhancing crosswalk visibility, implementing a road diet, and deploying curb extensions, raised crosswalks, pedestrian refuge islands, and pedestrian hybrid beacons help in managing uncontrolled pedestrian crossings, as detailed in this FHWA guide.
Pedestrian crossing signs are road warning signs used to alert drivers about the possibility of individuals crossing the road in front of their vehicle. By providing advance notice of high pedestrian activity areas, these signs help drivers prepare to slow down or stop at a short notice and prevent pedestrian crashes.
Pedestrian crossing signs are one of the means used to make roads safer for walking. These are a common sight in areas with high pedestrian activity, such as school zones, city centers, commercial areas, etc.
Pedestrian crossing signs are covered in MUTCD Chapter 2C - Warning Signs and Object Markers. The chapter states that pedestrian warning signs may carry a black legend on a yellow or fluorescent yellow-green background on a diamond-shaped sign.
Two types of pedestrian warning signs are described in the chapter - a pedestrian crossing sign (W11-2) and a pedestrian/bicycle crossing sign ( W11-15). Information about the placement of pedestrian crossing signs, use of supplemental plaques, and use with corresponding ‘yield’ and ‘stop’ signs is also provided.
As per NHTSA, pedestrians can adopt several safe walking practices to prevent crashes and enhance road safety. The most basic and important practice is to obey traffic rules, signs, and symbols. Pedestrians should avoid walking on the road and use sidewalks instead. When walking on the road cannot be avoided, walking on the side of the road, facing the traffic is recommended.
Pedestrians should remain alert and refrain from plugging in or using mobile as this can prove to be rather dangerous on the road. They should avoid assumptions, be proactive, and keep an eye out for vehicles approaching them, backing up, and/or entering/exiting driveways. It is always a safe practice to use crosswalks and intersections to cross the road. Where these are not available, one should pick a well-lit area and wait for a considerable gap in the traffic flow to cross.
Additionally, as applicable to motorists, pedestrians should also avoid walking on the road under the influence of alcohol and drugs, especially when unsupervised.