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According to a recent report of the National Complete Streets Coalition, Dangerous By Design, Florida ranked as the most dangerous state in the United States for pedestrians during the ten year period from 2003-2012. Central Florida was one of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians during the same period. So, how do you avoid accidents as a pedestrian in Central Florida?
Stop, look, listen and think. That’s what we were taught as children.
Stop at the curb, look in all directions, listen for instructions (or vehicle sounds or whistles) and then think about whether or not it’s safe to cross the street. To a kid just learning about pedestrian safety, that can be a lot to remember. But after a few years of practice, it starts to become second nature.
No one is born with street smarts. Whether it’s walking near traffic, crossing an intersection, walking through a parking lot or walking at night, kids should be taught the right strategy for every situation. Here are a few rules they should follow when out and about:
- Always try to walk on a sidewalk or path
- Always cross at street corners using traffic signals and cross walks
- Always walk facing traffic (in other words, walk on the left-hand side)
- Walk safely (these general rules also work for parking lots)
- Walk, don’t run
- No horseplay with friends (no pushing and shoving!)
- Stay close to adults or older siblings
- Pay attention to your surroundings
- Watch out for driveways
- At night, dress in bright-colored clothing or reflective material and carry a flashlight
- If you’re under 10 years old, always cross the street with an adult (young kids cannot correctly judge the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles)
The sad truth is that no matter how well your child follows the rules, being a pedestrian today is not what it used to be. Drivers and walkers have become so distracted with talking and texting and playing with their mobile devices that it takes more than just following some basic rules to be safe. If your child doesn’t make direct eye contact with a driver before crossing the street, there’s a good chance they could get hit (especially if the driver was looking down only seconds before). In addition, so many teens and preteens walk while texting or using headphones. According to a report by Safe Kids Worldwide, injury rates among pedestrians 16 to 19 are on the rise. In fact, teens are now the leading at-risk age group with their death rates twice as high as other kids.
It’s time to start emphasizing some additional rules when teaching our children how to survive as pedestrians – rules we should not only repeat until they are out of our care, but ones we should be modeling as well. We could begin with turning off the MP3 players and putting away the smart phones. Texting or listening to music while walking near traffic does NOT mix. No matter the mode of transportation, being fully present is the only way to stay safe.
Just imagine what it would be like if we all committed to walking (and driving) distraction free. Oh what a wonderful world it would be!