Now the clocks have turned back, it’s getting darker much earlier, which means you will very often find yourself walking in the dark. Be this back from the train station, walking your children back from an after-school club or Scouts or simply walking to and from meeting friends, the chances are you will find yourself walking when it is dark.
Your safety as a pedestrian is important. While you are very safe when walking along the pavement and road accidents involving pedestrians are decreasing, you are one of the most vulnerable groups, you don’t have a metal box to protect you if an incident occurs. We talk a lot about road safety as a driver, but not so much as a pedestrian.
So in this article, we are going to look at road safety for pedestrians with our top tips to stay safe.
Road Safety When Walking Along The Road
This may seem obvious, but it’s always good to refresh your memory when it comes to keeping safe when walking along the road. There are many distractions these days, from listening to music to texting on your phone to taking a Snapchat, and these distractions can cause you, or someone else, injury.
So here are some of our top tips for walking along the road safely.
Always walk on the pavement if possible
If there is a footway or a footpath, use it. Try and avoid being next to the kerb with your back to the traffic. If you have to step in the road make sure you look both ways first.
If the path is closed temporarily then take extra care when having to walk on the road, through the diversion or if you have to cross the road.
Never walk on a motorway or a slip road unless it is an emergency.
What to do if there is no path
If there is nowhere to walk other than the road then you should walk on the right-hand side of the road. This is so you can see oncoming traffic.
You should be prepared to walk single file, especially on narrow country roads or when the lighting is poor and keep close to the side of the road.
When crossing, do not cross on a bend and cross well before a sharp bend so traffic can see you. After the bend, you can cross back.
Make sure you are seen
Wear something light-coloured, bright or fluorescent when the light conditions are poor.
As we said, it gets dark early now, and you might not always be seen. Use reflective materials such as armbands or waistcoats, or even footwear which can be seen. These reflective materials can be seen by drivers using headlights up to three times as far away as non-reflective materials. So they do work and they can potentially save your life.
You can also get arm-straps, foot straps and clip on lights that also enable you to be seen.
Road Safety When Crossing The Road
Find a safe place to cross
Make sure there is space to reach the footway or footpath on the other side. Use a crossing if possible.
If there is no crossing or subway in place then you should choose a place you can see in all directions.
Try not to cross between parked cars, on a blind bend or close to the brow of a hill. Ensure that drivers and riders can see you and don’t cross the road diagonally.
Take your headphones out, or pause your music
This is a fairly modern safety tip but pause your music. You can’t hear if any cars are coming if you have your music going when crossing the road. While it might look like nothing is coming, you don’t know what is round the corner, especially if it’s during the day when vehicles don’t have any lights on.
If you pause your music or take your headphones out then you can hear if there are any vehicles, including motorbikes, approaching.
Stop just before the kerb
Make sure you can see if anything is coming but don’t get too close to the kerb. If there is no footpath then keep back from the edge of the road but make sure you can still see if there is anything approaching.
If traffic is coming then wait for it to pass and look and listen again. Don’t cross until there is a safe gap and you can cross the road with plenty of time. Ensure that the traffic is travelling too quickly for you to cross safely.
When you do cross, don’t run. Keep looking and listening while you are crossing in case there is anything suddenly approaching. Look out for motorbikes and cyclists travelling between cars, especially if there is traffic.
Crossing at a junction
If you have to cross at a junction then you will have to be extra careful. Look out for vehicles turning into the road, and take extra note of any vehicles turning into the road from behind you.
Interestingly, if you are crossing the road and traffic wants to turn into the road, then you have priority and therefore should allow you to continue crossing. This is part of the Highway Code.
Crossing on a one way street
When crossing a one way street, be aware of cycle and bus lanes. These could operate the opposite direction to the rest of the traffic.
You should also be careful when crossing bus and cycle lanes as these could be travelling quicker than the rest of the traffic. Bicycles are pretty silent unless they ring a bell to alert you and their stopping distance is longer than a car, so you could end up colliding with a bicycle if you aren’t careful.
Crossing in between parked vehicles
Avoid it if you can, but if you have to cross the road in between parked vehicles then use the outside edges of the vehicle the same way you would a kerb.
Make sure you can see and make sure the traffic sees you. Ensure that, when you cross the road, there is a gap for you to join the footpath.
Never cross in front or behind any vehicle with its engine running, nor cross behind a vehicle that is reversing.
Crossing The Road At A Crossing
There are many types of crossing and these are the safest place to cross the road. So always use them if you can.
Before you cross any crossing then you should always make sure that the traffic has stopped before you start to cross, and never push a pushchair onto the crossing. Always place the pushchair beside you, on the side away from the oncoming traffic.
Vehicles do not always stop for you on a crossing, so don’t stroll out onto one expecting people to stop.
When crossing at a zebra crossing
Wait before the traffic has stopped or the road is clear before crossing a zebra crossing. Vehicles don’t have to stop for you unless you are already crossing. So if you are halfway across the road and a car approaches then they should wait for you to cross over. However, they do not have to stop for you if you are just waiting to cross. This is a pretty common misconception about zebra crossings.
Keep looking when you are crossing in case there is a bicycle or a motorbike, or a vehicle that simply hasn’t seen you.
If there is an island in the middle of the crossing then the crossings are separate. You should wait at the island before you cross again, treat it as if you had approached a brand new crossing.
When crossing at a railway crossing
Depending on where you live, these may be common or they may not be. Some railway crossings have barriers and flashing lights, as well as alarms to warn you that a train is approaching. However, in more rural areas, they will not have these.
When there are barriers, then do not cross when the barriers are down. The lights and alarms will sound as the barriers are going down, and you should not cross while this is happening. Wait until the barriers come up, or if there is a subway or a footbridge, then you can simply use this to get to the other side quickly. However, do not try and cross when the barriers are coming down.
If there are no lights, barriers or alarms then you will have to stop, look both ways and listen before crossing. If you are planning a walk that involves railway crossings like this, know roughly where they are on your journey so you can prepare for them before you get there. If you are with a group of people and you are talking and admiring the scenery, then you might not realise you are approaching a railway crossing.
Road Safety Tips For Ramblers
If you are walking in a large group, particularly a walking group, then it’s important that you all stay safe when walking along a road.
You may find yourself walking on roads, either urban or rural, when walking with a group. You should always use a pavement if there is one and use safe crossings when you can. Make sure you are all wearing something bright or fluorescent if you are walking at dusk or night.
If you are walking along a country lane, where there are no footpaths, then different rules apply for different groups. If you are a small group, then you should keep to the right hand side of the road where you can see oncoming traffic and they can see you. Cross to the left-hand side if you are approaching a sharp right-hand bend, and then cross back after the bend.
If you are a large group, then you should keep on the left. There should be a look-out at the front and back of the group, and they should be wearing fluorescent clothes in the day and reflective clothes at night. The front look-out should have a white light and the back look-out should have a red light. Those who are walking on the outside of the group should carry lights and wear reflective clothing.
Road Safety Tips For Dog Walkers
Dogs are part of the family, and they deserve the same care when it comes to road safety.
So here are some top tips to keeping your dog safe when you are walking along the road.
- Always use the pavement if you can
- Always walk facing oncoming traffic
- Keep your dog on its lead at all time
- You never know what might happen and your dog could dart into traffic if it sees a cat, squirrel, or wants to make a new friend
- Keep your dog away from traffic
- It can be trickier for drivers to see a dog than it is for them to see a person. So keep your dog on the outside, so you are walking next to the traffic
- Keep a torch with you
- Now it gets dark earlier, keep a torch with you so you can see where you are going. Dogs also have better eyesight than you, and they might see something that will make them try and shoot off (taking you with them) that you cannot
- Wear reflective clothing
- You can find leads that have a reflective strip on them as well for your dog, so they are also seen at night
Road Safety Tips For Runners
You may find that your evening run has become a lot darker and a lot chillier recently, and it might be time to brush up on some road safety before you get back out there.
- Let people know where you are going
- Some running apps have an automated system that sends a text to an emergency contact, with a link to the GPS so they can see where you are while you are running
- Act as if drivers cannot see you
- That way, you will be more careful and act with greater care when running than if you assume that you can be seen.
- Run facing the traffic
- Wear high visibility clothing
- This could include a reflective jacket, an arm-strap or a light-up arm-strap or shoe-strap. You can also get clips that light up. You could also consider getting a head torch or a handheld light so you can see where you are going.
- Try and keep the volume low
- If you have to run with headphones in, which many people do, try and keep the volume low so you can be aware of your surroundings. Pause your music or take your headphones out when you are crossing the road.
- Be aware of driveways and car park entrances
- These often go into the pavement, so you can run across them without realising and end up either getting into an accident, or really annoying a driver.
Hopefully this has given you some idea of how to keep safe on the road. This includes when walking in rural areas and how to cross the road safely and without incident. While some of these may seem obvious, it is always good to refresh your memory. As we get older, we often get over-confident, especially when crossing common roads that we cross every day. This can be dangerous and can lead to incidents that could have very easily been avoided. However, hopefully some of these tips have refreshed your memory or perhaps taught you something new.