How to Pedestrian Like a Pro

by | Feb 28, 2011 04:53 PM ET

While I was walking to go get lunch today, I almost got pancaked by a bus! Luckily my lunch buddy was paying more attention than me, and he pulled me back just in time. This might make it sound like it was all my fault, and it was in part because pedestrians should always look before they cross a busy street, but I feel I can defend my case to a certain extent considering the traffic light was, you know, Completely Changed to Red. This near "Reverse Jessika SMASH!" (the unholy counterpart of the world renowned and thoroughly awesome "Jessika SMASH!") got me thinking about pedestrian safety, and I thought I would pass on what I learned.

Apart from always visually confirming that the way is clear by doing a solid left/right/left, there are several ways pedestrians can improve their chances of not ending up part of grim statistics like these. Let's start with wardrobe. It drives me absolutely insane when I'm driving along at night and see a pedestrian at the last second because he (or much more rarely she) is clothed entirely in dark colors. Come on guys, lighten it up a little if you're going to be out walking after sunset. Along the same lines, pedestrians should carry a flashlight or stay in well-lit areas, and not lurk where they're hard for drivers to see.

That brings us to next thing pedestrians need to focus on: staying alert. Peds need to be attentive to traffic conditions and can't rely on traffic signals. (Like I did earlier today. Guess we were both at fault. Still, stupid bus!) Take the earbuds out and listen and look carefully; make sure the lanes you need to cross are clear and keep an eye out for turning vehicles, too.  It's best to cross at intersections' crosswalks, so at least drivers are expecting you, but a driver concentrated on turning might not be on the lookout for pedestrians sharing the roadway. If there's no sidewalk, peds should also walk facing traffic. That way if a car doesn't see them, they can scurry off to the side. Pedestrians have the right-of-way, of course, but that doesn't help much if a driver doesn't see that they're attempting to exercise that right.

Similarly, it's important to never assume a vehicle will stop. It's one thing if a driver makes eye contact and visually confirms that he or she will be coming to a halt, but pedestrians shouldn't trust drivers to automatically stop, especially if they appear distracted. Otherwise that cell phone they're yakking on could be calling 911 in a few minutes. Stay safe out there, people, and remember to always pause and look both ways; just because the light says it's all right to go doesn't necessarily make it so. (Ooh, that sort of rhymed.)

Any safety tips I missed? Oh, and don't forget to follow How-to Stuff on Facebook and Twitter. You can also head over to iTunes and download our new HowStuffWorks iPhone app!

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