Pedestrians--Safety tips for mature adults

The key to remember is to See and Be Seen. It is a good idea when walking, especially at dawn, dusk, and other low-light conditions, to wear light colors or bright clothing so that you can be easily seen. Fluorescent colors such as blaze orange, hot pink, and day-glow green are ideal in daytime but not at nighttime.

To See and Be Seen, dress to be seen by drivers. If you walk at night, remember that wearing white clothing does not guarantee drivers can see you. When walking at night, use a flashlight to make yourself more visible to drivers and to help light your path.

It is also a good idea to wear reflective or retro reflective materials, which give off light when headlights shine on them and can be seen by drivers three times farther than white. Many stores sell walking shoes, jackets, and safety sports equipment featuring retro reflective material. Although retro reflective materials are more effective than reflective materials, both are ineffective in daytime.

Also, remember that walkers are especially at risk during winter. The lower angle of the winter sun increases the shadows cast by buildings and trees. Decreased daylight, shadows, and nightfall make it difficult to see walkers wearing dark or non-reflective clothing.

Here are some other safety tips for walkers:

  • Wear sturdy shoes that will give you proper footing. A running or walking shoe that supports your foot from side to side is best.
  • Use paths and sidewalks whenever available. If you must walk on or near a road, remember to walk facing oncoming traffic, so that both you and the driver can see each other. If there's a smooth stable surface alongside the roadway, that's also a good place to walk—just stay as far to the side as possible and look for oncoming traffic.
  • Cars and other objects can obscure a driver's view. Cars, buses, hedges, or mounds of snow can block a driver's view. Even if a driver has stopped to let you cross the street, don't blindly accept the driver's offer because there may be another vehicle in the next lane overtaking the stopped vehicle. And the second driver can't see you because of the stopped vehicle.
  • Plan routes to avoid hazardous crossings. The safest crossing points will have:
  1. enough room for you to stand back from the roadway crosswalks that are clearly defined on the pavement crossing signals that indicate when you should cross
  2. Wide avenues that require pedestrians to cross in phases should have an island where you can stand until the next "fresh green" (a fresh green is the newly changed green light on the traffic signal in front of you as you stand facing the direction you want to cross) or walk signal phase.
  • Stop and look for traffic in all directions before crossing the street, and look to the left, right, and left again—even on a one-way street. And always look left last because that is the direction that cars will be coming from when you first step off the curb.
  • Don't rely only on traffic signs and signals. Assuming that a signal will stop traffic puts you at risk. You must look for traffic even if you are in a crosswalk and you are crossing with the light or with the walk signal. A driver who does not see or obey a sign or signal may also not be paying enough attention to see you.
  • Allow plenty of time to cross streets. If you're not sure how long a signal gives you to cross, observe one light cycle so you'll know how much time you have. If the signal does not provide enough time, find another place to cross the street. Otherwise, cross the street when you get a "fresh green."
  • Intersections are especially difficult for older pedestrians. You are most at risk when first stepping off the curb, because drivers may not see you until you're actually in the roadway. Always stop at the curb and look left, right, then left again for cars before entering the roadway. Don't assume the drivers see you unless they signal for you to cross.
  • Turning vehicles can be especially dangerous at intersections. Drivers are concentrating on making their turns and avoiding oncoming traffic, so they might not see you. Exaggerate your head turns so that you look in all directions, including behind you. Make sure you look for vehicles making right turns on red and for vehicles making left turns. Always make sure the driver of a vehicle that is turning sees you.
  • Understand crosswalk signals.

--The steady DON'T WALK signal is like the red light, it means that you should stop at the curb and wait for the next WALK signal or green light.

--The flashing DON'T WALK signal, like the yellow caution light, means that you shouldn't start to cross the street. However, if you are in the street when the signal begins flashing, don't stop or return to the curb. Continue to walk as fast as you can, comfortably, until you reach the other side or a pedestrian island.

--The WALK signal, like the green light, does not mean that it is safe for you to start crossing without looking. It is best, even on a WALK signal, to check traffic for turning vehicles or oncoming cars. Before crossing at an intersection, you may want to wait for a "fresh green" light because it will give you the most crossing time. If there is a push button, press the button and wait for the WALK signal to come on.

--Some areas are using a new WALK signal that counts down the seconds remaining for you to cross the intersection safely. When the seconds run out, a steady DON'T WALK light will come on because the traffic light is about to change. Walk with a friend. Walking with a friend will add to the pleasure of your walk and increase your safety as well, as long as you are watching out for each other. Enjoy your conversation, but don't let it distract you from watching out for road and traffic hazards as you walk.

  • Be especially careful in parking lots. Parking lots create special hazards because cars may be turning quickly or backing out of a parking space. Be sure to look for backup lights and listen for engine noise.
  • Wait for a "fresh green" when crossing at signals. Don't start to cross the street unless the traffic signal has just turned green. By waiting for a fresh green, you allow yourself the most time to cross the intersection safely.


(Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,

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