BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) – October is Pedestrian Safety Month. That means West Virginia’s traffic organizations are promoting pedestrian safety all month long.

The benefits of walking to things like physical and mental health, the environment, and communities is high. Unfortunately, the rate of pedestrian fatalities also remain high. In 2020 alone, 6,516 pedestrians died nationwide. 18 pedestrians were killed by drivers in West Virginia in 2020. Pedestrian deaths accounted for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide in 2020.

For these reasons, the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is joining with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in observing October 2022 as National Pedestrian Safety Month. The organizations are strengthening their endeavors to improve safety for vulnerable road users.

“We often think of urban areas as more dangerous for pedestrians. We are seldom more vulnerable than when walking in cities, crossing busy streets, and negotiating traffic. Rural areas can be just as dangerous to walk in, if not more so, as many areas have no sidewalks, crosswalks, or safe spaces for walking,”

Amy Boggs, GHSP Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety Coordinator

When driving, help keep pedestrians of all ages safe by doing these things:

  • Watch for pedestrians at all times; be extra cautious when backing up.
  • Do not drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
  • Obey all traffic laws, especially posted speed limits in school zones.
  • Pay attention. Put your phone down and never drive while distracted.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, making eye contact to indicate that you see them.

“Since everyone is a pedestrian from time to time, it’s important to pay attention to what is going on around us. As both pedestrians and motorists, we all need to pay more attention to our surroundings. Vehicles are deadly weapons and, when combined with a pedestrian, can be deadly. That’s why the GHSP is sharing information on pedestrian safety this month,”

Amy Boggs, GHSP Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety Coordinator

If you are the pedestrian, follow these tips to stay safe:

  • Pay attention. That means: Head Up, Phone Down.
  • Stay alert. Don’t wear ear buds.
  • Avoid alcohol and drug impairment when walking.
  • Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult.
  • Cross streets at crosswalks.
  • Follow the rules of the road, obeying all traffic signs and signals.
  • If no crosswalk is available and your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic.
  • Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street, making eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you.
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.
  • Wear bright and/or reflective clothing and use a flashlight at night.
  • Whenever possible, walk on the sidewalk; if no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic.

Distracted walking incidents are on the rise, and everyone with a cell phone is at risk. More than half of distracted walking injuries occur in our own homes, proving that we need to stay aware of our surroundings whether indoors and out. We are losing focus on our surroundings and putting our safety at risk. The solution is: Stop using phones while walking, and not just in crosswalks and intersections.

“Most pedestrian-involved crashes are preventable. The bottom line is, all road users need to pay attention, not be distracted or impaired, and slow down,” Boggs concluded.

For more information about pedestrian safety, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/pedestrian-safety.