Defensive Walking

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photo-1423853978401-35df4077ff7dIn October, the de Blasio Administration announced that New York City was redoubling its efforts around Vision Zero as the City enters what is traditionally the deadliest time of year for pedestrians on New York City streets. Pedestrian incidents increase by nearly 40 percent in the early evening hours compared to crashes outside the fall and winter. Lower visibility during the dark hours of the colder months leads to twice as many crashes involving turns.  In 2015, the year with the fewest traffic fatalities in New York City’s recorded history, 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred after October 1.

crossingThe DOT expects to complete at least 90 Safety Improvement Projects in 2016, including expanded pedestrian space, protected bike lanes, corridor improvements, and intersection treatments, including lighting upgrades at 1,000 priority intersections throughout the City. In addition, the agency is converting to higher-intensity LED, which makes pedestrians and cyclists more conspicuous, and reduces the capacity for nighttime crashes.

In 2016, as part of Vision Zero, the DOT implemented its most aggressive street redesign safety program, with increased investment in street redesign and traffic-calming measures citywide. It has also improved safety at a record number of dangerous intersections and thoroughfares.

black-19137_960_720use-crosswalk-signHowever, pedestrian safety is a two-way street. According to the Global Road Safety Partnership, the behavior of pedestrians is a contributing factor in traffic accidents. For example, we usually choose the shortest route, avoiding crosswalks or underpasses.  When on familiar routes, we often pay less attention to traffic than when in unknown surroundings. Typical dangerous situations include drivers travelling at high speeds and lack of attention from both pedestrians and drivers. Much of the literature on pedestrian safety involves “distracted walking”—walking while speaking on the phone, texting, or listening to music and thereby becoming oblivious to your surroundings.

Pedestrians need to take responsibility for their safety by employing “defensive walking.”  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines defensive walking as “Counting on yourself as the final judge of what’s happening.”  In other words, anticipating what a driver may do, and trying to control the situation.  Tips include making eye contact with the driver whenever possible, and wearing light-colored clothing in the evening.  Of course, do not text or speak on a cellphone while crossing the street.  One factor usually not mentioned is live in the moment.  When crossing the street, pay attention to what you are doing, not what happened earlier in the day or what still needs to be accomplished.

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HAKS wishes its readers a happy—and safe—Thanksgiving.

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