October marks the deadliest month in Michigan for pedestrians.
The reason? Simple. Less light throughout the day, and poor habits. The leaders at the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments have done mountains of research on traffic-related deaths.
“It’s about changing the culture,” said Kathleen Lomako, SEMCOG’s executive director. “Making people aware of these things involves all of us together.”
That’s why local communities are pushing a number of safety campaigns targeted at walking, driving and bicycling. It may sound simplistic, but that’s the point. Plenty of people are ignoring simple things that can save lives. In fact, while talking with Lomako, 7 Action News captured at least a dozen people on camera walking across streets when cross-walks were within a block.
It’s possible that engineer fixes are needed in some locations to improve safety for pedestrians, Lomako said they’ve found those situations. However, she also points to data that proves distractions, a lack of light and ignoring cross-walks are some of the most common issues in pedestrian-related accidents that lead to a death. Part of their ongoing #WalkSafe campaign stresses that it’s not just drivers that are distracted by cell phones, but pedestrians too. They’ve also made a push to hand out wrist lights for early morning/late evening walkers. Bike lights have also been handed out at local government events and inside schools.
“I think lighting — and it’s both morning and night — people aren’t used to driving in the dark,” said Lomako. “They don’t see pedestrians or bicyclists.”
According to statistics from SEMCOG, bicyclists and pedestrians account for 1-percent of accidents in southeast Michigan but 30 percent of traffic deaths.
Here’s a look at some of SEMCOG’s best practices for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers:
- Look left-right-left before crossing a street and watch for turning vehicles.
- Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections.
- Obey all traffic signals. Only enter the street during the “WALK” symbol when crossing at a signal.
- Walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far to the left as possible.
- Yield the right-of-way to motorists and bicyclists when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk.
- Allow ample time for a vehicle to yield prior to entering the street
- Assume drivers see you. Wait for them to stop and make eye contact before crossing a street.
- Walk after dark and in bad weather without bright and reflective clothing.
- Walk distracted, including talking or texting on your phone or listening to headphones.
- Obey all traffic signs and signals.
- Ride with traffic, not against it, including on sidewalks and paths.
- Watch for turning vehicles at intersections and driveways. Use your hands to signal when you plan to turn, slow down, or stop.
- Wear a properly fitted helmet.
- Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on sidewalks or crosswalks.
- Watch for people who are walking and biking.
- Yield to people walking and biking when turning.
- Stop or yield to people within all crosswalks. Crosswalks exist wherever sidewalks cross roads, even if no lines are painted in the road.
- Share the road with bicyclists. They are legally allowed to ride on all roads, even when there is a bike lane or sidepath present.
- Leave at least 3 feet when passing bicyclists.
- Obey the posted speed limit.
- Block or park in crosswalks and bike lanes.
- Pass a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians.
- Drive distracted, including talking or texting on your phone.
- Drive after consuming alcohol or drugs.
If you'd like to learn more about SEMCOG's push for safety, and awareness for pedestrians, you can learn more about their ongoing campaigns on their website.