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Be a Smarter Pedestrian The Next Time You Cross the Street

These tips could help you stay safe.

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Walking is one of the healthiest ways to get from point A to B. In fact, a 12-year study from the University of Cambridge suggested that small increases in physical activity (such as walking briskly for 20 minutes a day) in inactive individuals was associated with a reduced mortality risk. But it’s important to always step with caution. Each day, more than 400 pedestrians are sent to the ER because of traffic accidents. And it’s getting more dangerous: The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads rose 11 percent between 2015 and 2016, which is the largest jump on record, according to a recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association

That shouldn’t prevent you from lacing up your sneakers. The next time you head out for a stroll, follow these critical safety tips, especially when cars are nearby.

Use designated crosswalks. Waiting for the light may seem like a waste of time, but it can save your life. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities are the result of jaywalking. Another 42 percent happen on streets without crosswalks. If there’s no designated intersection, find a well-lit section of the road and wait for a long gap in traffic. 

Make yourself seen. It’s especially important at night: 1 in 3 pedestrian deaths occur between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. Wear reflective clothing, carry a flashlight (or turn on the flashlight on your phone), and stay in well-lit areas. And no matter what time of day it is, don’t assume drivers see you. Before crossing the street, try to make eye contact so they know you’re there.

Don’t text and cross. Like texting while driving, using your smartphone is a distraction while strolling, too. It takes your eyes off your path, making you more likely to trip or walk into something. And research shows that people who use their phones while walking have slower reaction times and aren’t as aware of their surroundings. To stay safe, put away your smartphone when you’re walking. 

Stay on sidewalks. If that’s not possible, walk on the shoulder of the road facing traffic. This will help drivers make eye contact with you and help you be able to judge when you need to get out of the way. 

Don’t drink and walk. The Governors Highway Safety Association report found that more than one-third of pedestrians who were killed had alcohol in their systems. That’s because when you’re under the influence, you’re more likely to make a bad decision, such as crossing the street in a dangerous place. Call a cab or a friend for a ride home.