The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines a pedestrian as a person who is on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting, or lying down. You’d think it would be relatively safe to walk down the street, but sadly it’s not the case, at least in terms of traffic accidents. Nationally, 5,000 pedestrians are killed each year in traffic accidents and another 70,000 are injured. Those are sobering numbers, and Colorado has its share of fatal pedestrian accidents. In 2015, there were 1,330 pedestrian accidents resulting in 59 pedestrian deaths.
Pedestrian Safety Is a Two-Way Street
The American Automobile Association notes that both vehicle drivers and pedestrians must follow the rules to keep themselves and others safe. There are many things a pedestrian can do to help make sure they arrive safely to their destination:
- Your No. 1 responsibility is to make sure drivers can see you. This is especially true at night. Research has shown that 32 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occur at night, mostly from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.
- Technology is great, but it’s not meant to be used while walking or jogging. Officials stress that texting while walking, or even wearing headphones to listen to music can distract you from what is going on around you and that can lead to an accident.
- Follow all traffic rules, including using crosswalks and obeying traffic signals and signs, and even know vehicle rules so you can properly anticipate what drivers will do.
As for drivers, being alert at all times and looking for pedestrians will help you avoid vehicle-pedestrian crashes. Crosswalks can be dangerous, so there are some basic rules that need to be followed:
- Always yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.
- When approaching a crosswalk, reduce your speed and be prepared to stop.
- When you are stopped at a crosswalk, allow enough room between your vehicle and the crosswalk so other drivers can see the pedestrians you have stopped for.
- Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk.
Self-Driving Cars and Pedestrian Safety
Autonomous cars, also known as self-driving cars, are no longer a technological pipe dream. They’re already on the streets of some states. So how will humans interact with self-driving cars? Researchers say 80 percent of pedestrians seek eye contact with a driver before crossing a road, but without a driver, there is no eye contact to be made. Or, so you think.
Semcon, a Swedish company, is working on technology that lets autonomous cars interact with pedestrians. The so-called “Smiling Car” system uses advanced sensors, including cameras with systems for eye-tracking technology or laser technology. Developers hope to fully develop technology that senses a person’s head movement.
For example, a pedestrian standing on a corner who looks at an autonomous car would trigger immediate feedback from the vehicle. A screen on the front of the vehicle displays a digital smile letting the pedestrian know they are seen, and it’s safe to cross the street. The technology may be a few years away from full implementation, but it’s an early step in the right direction.