Research performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety revealed that drivers of bigger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs are more likely to hit pedestrians while making turns than drivers of cars or sedans. Many factors contribute to this truth, and there are many ways pedestrians can combat this epidemic on our roadways.
According to AAA Northeast, one pedestrian was struck by a motorist every 33 minutes in New York State, with almost 162,000 people killed or injured from 2010 to 2019. Pedestrian injury and death is particularly common in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, for a variety of reasons. Sidewalks are far from universal, and these rural areas are becoming increasingly congested. Newsday reported the death toll in Suffolk during 2010-2019 was 400, the highest for any county in the state. Nassau County ranked fourth with 284 deaths. Not to mention, it is well-documented that this issue has only increased in the wake of COVID-19.
The IIHS cited earlier research that has shown SUVs and pickups are not only more widespread than ever in the US, but they are also more lethal to pedestrians than cars. This new research confirms the increased likelihood of these vehicles to hit pedestrians when making turns, suggesting that these larger vehicles may not afford drivers as clear a view of people crossing the road.
While it’s up to SUV drivers to take care and follow the laws in place, pedestrians can also take steps to protect themselves on our shared roads.
Know the Law
There are a number of New York State laws in place that are meant to protect pedestrians. It’s important to know these laws, as they essentially outline your rights as a pedestrian.
Motorists have the right of way at most locations, except for marked crosswalks. Marked crosswalks indicate a safe place for pedestrians to cross the street, as drivers are required by law to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Pedestrians also have the right of way when cars are pulling out of driveways over sidewalks, in parking lots, and some other locations that are not considered marked roadways. Never cross mid-block or outside of a crosswalk, and always obey pedestrian signals.
Use the Sidewalk
When possible, always use the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk available, pedestrians are required by law to walk against traffic. This allows for pedestrians to make eye contact with drivers, making them more visible and reducing the chance of a pedestrian injury or fatality.
See! Be Seen!
Speaking of visibility, it’s vital to both “See!” and “Be Seen!” as a pedestrian. “See!” by looking left, right, left again, and over your shoulder for turning vehicles before crossing. Pay attention—avoid texting and walking and make sure to watch out for vehicles backing out of parking spaces and driveways.
“Be Seen!” by staying visible after dark and in bad weather with light-colored or reflective clothing. Again, make eye contact with drivers so they see you. Don’t step suddenly in front of traffic—buses and trucks take even longer to stop than other vehicles.
Where You Walk Matters
It’s important to choose a safe place to walk, especially on Long Island where sidewalks and other pedestrian safety enhancements can be few and far between. Find a location where you know there are sidewalks and pedestrian signals. If there are no sidewalks, always walk facing traffic and make eye contact with motorists when possible. Parks and trails are also a safe bet. Browse scenic places to walk on the Long Island Health Collaborative website.
New York State law prohibits pedestrians from walking on highways, access roads, expressways, and interstates. Should you find yourself in a position where you have a flat tire or your vehicle is broken down on a highway, make an effort to get off of that busy roadway as soon as possible.
About Walk Safe Long Island
Walk Safe Long Island (WSLI) is a pedestrian and cyclist safety campaign that aims to teach Long Islanders about walking and biking safely through law-based education. WSLI is produced for the New York Coalition for Transportation Safety by the Long Island Health Collaborative, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.
New York State is taking numerous measures to tackle the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety, all of which culminate in the New York State Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP). The plan emphasizes making streets safer by implementing the “Three Es—” engineering, enforcement, and education. Walk Safe Long Island is part of the third “E,” education.