We can attempt to educate drivers until we turn blue, but in the end, the hard fact of life in Miami is that pedestrians will never be able to rely on driver responsibility. Pedestrian safety is greatly dependent on the pedestrian knowing how to “walk defensively.”
Here are some key components of walking defensively:
- While you can’t rely solely on crossing signals, crosswalks, pedestrian laws, and marked pedestrian paths, the consistent and correct use of these provisions are a giant step toward making your walk safer.
- Crossing streets anywhere other than marked intersections is not only against the law, it is putting yourself in the path of drivers who are likely busy, distracted and in a hurry, at a moment when they have no reasonable expectation to encounter a pedestrian—a bad combination.
- Obey crossing signals, even if it means waiting a few minutes despite an initial judgment that there are no cars crossing. Think back to kindergarten here: it’s not your turn, but it will be your turn soon. Just wait.
- Don’t blindly obey crossing signals. Even when the signal says it’s your turn, look carefully in all directions before stepping onto the road. Proceed with caution and remain alert to all directions of traffic. Don’t assume that oncoming vehicles will stop at the light. Wait to see that they stop before crossing in front of them.
- When crossing an intersection with stop signs instead of lights, or when using crosswalks without lights, do not expect that drivers will stop because they are supposed to. Make eye contact with the driver before stepping onto the road and wait for a complete stop before proceeding.
- Preplan your walking route, especially if you are walking to the same destinations regularly. Choose the safest route, which hopefully will include sidewalks and designated pedestrian crossings. Avoid poorly maintained or desolate routes. Remember that the safest route might not necessarily be the shortest one.
- If you must walk along a road with no sidewalk, stay as far off the road as possible and walk on the side of oncoming traffic so you can see the cars closest to you as they approach. Pay attention to the drivers as they approach to make sure that they see you.
- Do not wear headphones that block out ambient noise while walking. The sounds of your surrounding environment can be the best and fastest warning of approaching danger.
If you have children or elderly family members who regularly walk from place to place, carefully consider their capabilities and their shortcomings in relation to the proposed walking route. Make sure they know and obey all pedestrian laws and emphasize the fact that nobody can predict or control the actions of drivers on the road. They must look out for their own safety at all times.