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February 03, 2016

7 Things Drivers Should Do to Keep Pedestrians & Cyclists Safe

Keep_Pedestrians_Cyclists_Safe_sAs good drivers, we know exactly how to interact with other cars on the road – we know who has the right of way at various types of intersections, what to do if another car has its lights off at night, and how to handle a tailgater.

But what many drivers are far less versed in is safe interaction with the pedestrians and cyclists with whom they share the road.  And given that cars are the post powerful things on the road, this lack of knowledge often causes accidents that result in serious injury or even death.

With an increase in the number of people who are opting for two wheels instead of four, many cities are seeing alarming spikes in accidents involving people who are on foot or bikes.  In Houston, for example, last weekend alone saw three deaths of pedestrians. 

So it’s become frighteningly clear that drivers need a refresher course in safely sharing the road with those who are not behind the wheel…

1) Always Yield

The indisputable fact is that anyone who isn’t in a car is far more vulnerable than automobile drivers.  So no matter who you think has the legal right of way or how big of a hurry you’re in, you must yield to the person who stands to lose a lot more in a collision

Urban drivers who come in contact with many bikers and walkers every day tend to get a little frustrated when they think that pedestrians are not doing their part to ensure their own safety, but you can’t let this annoyance cause you to make dangerous decisions that put others’ lives in danger.    

2) Watch for Crosswalks

It’s safest for pedestrians to cross at stoplights, but you must remember that that’s not the only place they should expect to be able to safely cross the street.  Crosswalks are meant to be safe zones where pedestrians have the right of way. 

Each state has different laws pertaining how drivers should respond to pedestrians at crosswalks, so you should take a moment to review the rules in your state.  However, in most states, drivers must yield to pedestrians at intersections that have marked crosswalks (zebra lines), stop signs, or flashing lights.

3) Respect Bike Lines

In many cities these days, major streets have designated bike lanes that are supposed to help ensure the safety of cyclists.  The problem is that some drivers don’t respect these lanes and feel that it’s OK to drive in them if they don’t see any bikers in the immediate vicinity.  As a driver, your visibility is not always perfect, so you may decide that it’s OK to veer into the bike lane when there is an approaching cyclist in your blind spot, which can create a dangerous situation.

You should also note that there is accepted protocol for right turns in the presence of bike lanes.  When you wish to turn right on a road that has a bike lane to your right, you should never cut off or turn in front of a cyclist going straight through the intersection – wait for them to go before attempting to turn right.  And be sure to always check the bike lane before opening your car door when parked on a road with a bike lane.

4) Exercise Caution in Parking Lots

Parking lots are common sites for pedestrian accidents because of decreased visibility and distraction.  Drivers often devote their entire focus to looking for a parking spot or rushing to get to one they see open.  Keep in mind that the speed limit for most parking lots is 10 mph, but you should practice cover braking so that you’re ready to stop right away if you see a child dart out from between two cars or another vehicle reversing from a spot. 

5) Ditch the Distractions

Distracted driving is dangerous for everyone on the road, but driving while texting, eating, or putting on makeup is especially hazardous for pedestrians. If you’re focused on something other than the road, you may still spot an approaching vehicle because of its sheer size, but the chances of spotting someone who’s walking or biking are much lower when you’re not being vigilant about what’s around you.

6) Be Careful at Night & in Inclement Weather

Under the best of conditions, it can be hard to see a biker or pedestrian on a busy road.  But that goes double when visibility is decreased in the dark or rain.  Cyclists are encouraged to have lights or reflective strips on their bikes and/or clothes, but remember that not all do, so it’s your job to be extra vigilant at these times.

7) Have Respect & Patience

The overarching theme here is that drivers must have more respect and patience whenever they encounter pedestrians and cyclists.  The road is not just for cars, so drivers must learn to share safely. 

In the future, if you ever feel yourself becoming frustrated with a biker or walker, try to think of how you’d behave if that individual was a friend or family member whose life you treasure. 

About the Author:  John Zaid is a Houston auto accident attorney John_Zaid-headshot and the founding member of Zaid Law, a firm that specializes in helping the victims of car accidents.  When he’s not passionately advocating for his clients, John loves spending time with his family and sharing his expertise and advice on a variety of online publications.  Click here for more.


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