Being an insurance geek, I observe things others do not. For example, when I drive through a neighborhood, I don’t look at the front of a home, I look at the roof. When my wife says, “That house looks nice,” I respond by saying, “So does the roof.”
Another trend I’ve observed is distracted walking. Whether at a tourist destination, the county fair, or our local farmer’s market, it seems just about everybody has their heads buried in their smartphones. Whether sending a text, talking on the phone, or selecting their next song list, people have no idea what’s going on around them.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 4,200 pedestrian deaths and 70,000 injuries have occurred since 2010 because of pedestrians being distracted.
With kids going back to school in the next few weeks, it’s important to remind them to stay focused on their surroundings. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a teen is injured or killed every hour of the day after being hit by a car.
Here are some walking tips to help keep your family safe.
1. Keep the volume low. With all the music available at a touch of a finger, I understand why kids enjoy walking with their headphones on. Telling them not to wear them is unrealistic. However, they can still enjoy music with the volume turned low. When I run, I listen to music all the time; however, I keep the volume low enough that I can still hear what’s going on around me.
If your kids wear headphones while biking, I would encourage them not to. When on a bike, reaction time must be faster. In addition, if they’re riding in the street, being able to see and hear is critical.
2. Put the device in your pocket. Encourage them to put their phones in their pockets and take their earbuds out when using a crosswalk. This will allow them to hear directions given by a crossing guard and allow them to focus on safely crossing.
3. Use your eyes. When crossing the street, making eye contact with drivers confirms they see you. If walking with headphones on, always scan the area around you. You may make an easy target for criminals with your eyes and ears distracted by your smartphone.
4. Don’t forget to look both ways. While this is common sense, people who are distracted tend to walk without looking. Alert drivers know they should yield or stop for pedestrians; however, a distracted driver and walker can be a deadly combination. If you’re not familiar with pedestrian laws, check out these links:
5. Be aware of pavement conditions: In Wisconsin, Mother Nature can wreak havoc on our roads and sidewalks. When walking, pay attention to changes in pavement. Sidewalks can buckle and crack, resulting in uneven footing.
6. Avoid jaywalking. If possible, always cross the street at a traffic light or stop sign. This gives you a better chance of being seen by motorists. Standing in between parked cars is dangerous. Drivers aren’t expecting people to walk out in front of them. If you’re standing in front of a pickup truck or SUV, you’re even more difficult to spot.
7. Never assume a car will stop. Even if you’re at a designated crosswalk, never assume a car will stop. I ride my bike to work several days a week. The number of motorists who don’t stop for me when I’m at a crosswalk or who pull over a sidewalk when making a turn amazes me. Many times motorists are in a hurry and forget that in these situations, pedestrians have the right of way.
8. Light up at night. If you have college students walking around campus at night, suggest that they put reflective tape on their jackets or backpacks. Reflective tape is inexpensive and shouldn’t interfere with their wardrobe. A bright flashlight is also a good idea for poorly-lit neighborhoods.
I love my smartphone and think it is one of the greatest inventions of all time. Nevertheless, it is not worth injuring yourself because you are addicted to it. Briefly putting it away could save your life!
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