San Diego pedestrian deaths more than doubled during 2011 and 2012, from 11 to 23—and more than half of those occurred at crosswalks. This trend indicates that pedestrians are not the only ones that need to be more aware on the street—drivers are just as responsible. Even when pedestrians are crossing the street in designated places, they are still being struck and killed.
So what can be done to make San Diego streets safer for drivers and pedestrians? It starts with more awareness for those behind the wheel. When you are driving, be sure to keep these safety tips in mind:
Don’t drive so slowly that you become a hazard, but be more mindful of the conditions around you by consciously driving at or below the speed limit. It’s the speed limit—not the speed minimum. Think critically about how you drive. Are you really in a hurry every time you get on the road? Take your time and notice a calmer, more enjoyable driving experience. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Treat the privilege with respect.
Put Your Phone Away
You do not need your phone for any reason while you are actively operating your vehicle. Put it in the backseat until you reach your destination. Even hands-free methods distract you from the road and can put you in danger. If you have a phone call or text that simply cannot wait until you reach your destination, pull over and use your phone safely. You may think there’s no harm in responding quickly to a text message or taking one hand off the wheel to answer your phone, but it only takes a split second for tragedy to occur.
Turn Off the Radio
You don’t need to ride in silence all the time, but when you enter a congested area or one with pedestrian crosswalks, turn off your music. A radio can drown out outside noises and cause you to miss important warnings. A longer trip down the highway may warrant a good music-listening session, but stop-and-go areas with foot traffic should be driven in silence so you can pay attention to everything going on around you. Never drive with headphones that cover your ears.
Pay Attention to Pedestrians
This seems simple enough, but how many people make a conscious effort to spot and interact with pedestrians on the road? When you are stopped near a crosswalk, wave to the pedestrians to let them know that you see them and it is safe to walk. Don’t simply look at the stoplight above you; pay attention to who is waiting to cross the street when the light turns green. Crosswalks are obvious spots to look, but be aware that pedestrians on foot or bike could attempt to cross the street anywhere. Give pedestrians the right of way to ensure the safety of both parties.
Avoid the “Cell Phone Shuffle”
Pedestrians must also do their part to protect themselves, by walking with purpose and attention. Approach intersections and crosswalks with your eyes and ears on the vehicle traffic, and not your cell phone. Several recent pedestrian accidents in San Diego have been caused in part by pedestrians blindly stepping off curbs and into crosswalks while staring at the phone in their hands, never once looking up. Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing with the light, but protect yourself from distracted or lost drivers, by looking both ways before leaving the sidewalk. Make eye contact and don’t assume the drivers see you or the light.
If we all commit to more mindful driving, we can prevent this troubling trend from getting worse. Keeping the road safe for all is everyone’s responsibility.