FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 24, 2018) - Walking and biking are healthy, environmentally friendly transportation options. As more people are walking and biking to work, cities are implementing bike-share programs and transportation planners are taking pedestrians and cyclists into account. Unfortunately, pedestrians and cyclists are at an inherent disadvantage when involved in traffic crashes. When a faster-moving vehicle meets a pedestrian or a bicycle, the vehicle always wins.

There has been an increase in accidents involving pedestrians walking down the street over the past five years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with the Department of Transportation, conducted an investigation of the increased accident rate involving victims that were not passengers in vehicles. The statistics that emerged from this investigation are of great concern for anyone that walks, runs and rides a bicycle - as well as drivers.

In 2015, there were 5,376 pedestrians killed. Those numbers can be broken down to show that 15 percent of all traffic fatalities were pedestrians. If we break it down even further, every two hours a pedestrian was killed, and one was injured every seven minutes. Drunk driving deaths have decreased over the last five years, but the number of people killed by a vehicle while walking or running has increased.

As safety professionals, we need to educate our civilian employees and Soldiers about pedestrian safety. Today, the streets and roadways are full of distracted drivers and sidewalks are full of distracted walkers, runner and bicyclists. This trend is a recipe for a life-changing moment for anyone trying to get from point A to point B, whether in a car or walking. Technology has made it possible for many to stay informed about things, but it has diminished our awareness of our immediate surroundings. We need to make some changes.

Drivers and pedestrians alike share the responsibility of keeping themselves and others on the road safe. The Federal Highway Administration has made many strides to increase pedestrian safety. Infrastructure improvements have added a variety of safety measures, including more medians and redesigned roads allowing for better pedestrian and bicycle traffic flow. Even with these improvements, personal responsibility is paramount to increasing a safe commute. The following are just a few things you can do as you walk or ride your bike.

• Take time to be aware of your surroundings. Many collisions are caused by carelessness on the part of the driver or pedestrian. Always pay attention to vehicles around you and follow all traffic rules.

• Avoid distractions. Cellphones, handheld devices, video games, newspapers, headphones, eating or anything thing else that takes your eyes, ears or mind off the road is a distraction. Any of these has the potential to distract you at the exact moment that you need to be alert.

• Stay sober. One study showed that almost half of all traffic crashes resulting in pedestrian casualties involved alcohol consumption. Surprisingly, 35 percent of that total was on the part of the pedestrian. Alcohol impairs your decision-making skills, physical reflexes and other abilities just as much on your feet at it does behind the wheel.

• Look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Looking left a second time is necessary because a car can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time.

• Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you.

• Be aware of drivers even when you are in a crosswalk. Vehicles have blind spots.

• Do not wear headphones while walking.

• Never use a cellphone or other electronic device while walking.

• If your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic.

• Never rely on a car to stop.

• Children younger than 10 should always cross the street with an adult.

• Only cross at designated crosswalks.

• Wear bright and/or reflective clothing.

• Walk in groups

We can regain our confidence in walking or riding our bicycles around town if we take time to educate ourselves and others about the inherent dangers involved in these activities. Walking and biking are a couple of the best things we can do to stay healthy, but only if we put safety first. An accident is an unacceptable loss and we should never believe they are unavoidable. When we make poor or indisciplined decisions, bad things can happen.

Did You Know? Since the beginning of fiscal 2017, 14 Soldiers have died in pedestrian accidents.

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