Surely, most of us have seen or heard a public service campaign calling road users to Safely Share the Road, but what does that mean, really? Isn’t this common sense? It feels like it would be; most of us have been behind the wheel for at least a decade —shouldn’t we have the hang of it by now? Unfortunately, data shows that isn’t the case. A motor vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian every 85 minutes in 2019 — that is unacceptable.
If you’re thinking this post is heavy, you’re right, it is. We’re talking about human lives here — someone existing with us one moment and gone the next; we’ve all lost someone. Can you imagine being the reason a family mourns and endures pain — all because of carelessness and physics? We can’t do anything about the physics … but we can be more cognizant, connected and cautious.
KNOWLEDGE IN NUMBERS
Nationally, 846 cyclists were killed in traffic crashes in 2019. A pedestrian was killed every 85 minutes in 2019. Yes, we already said that, but it’s worth repeating: 6,205 human beings left their home one day and never returned.
This issue doesn’t exclude The Natural State; in Arkansas there were 58 pedestrian deaths in 2019 and 107 were seriously injured. Fatal crashes took two cyclists and another 24 suffered injuries.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration aims to be the global leader in motor vehicle and highway safety. Through their extensive research — like the crash data from 2019 that I cited above — they provide the public with useful information, safety standards and enforcement ideas to save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes. One of their messages is for road users to (safely) share what already belongs to all of us — enter the Share the Road campaign.
The goal of Arkansas’s Share the Road messaging is to provide travelers with information on laws, policies, maps and resources to commute safely on Arkansas’s roadways, whether by walking, cycling or driving.
DID YOU KNOW?
Cyclists share many of the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle users. Plain and simple, they are allowed to ride on the roadway. Motorists should mind their speed and give cyclists 3 feet.
Whether marked or not, a crosswalk exists at any public road intersection. Bottom line: If you see someone trying to cross the street, stop and let them do so, safely. It takes less than 30 seconds, and you are contributing to a safer roadway.
Pedestrians aren’t crashing into bicycles or vehicles, but there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk that comes with walking near traffic. For example, always walk facing traffic and be predictable. Use the crosswalk, and if one isn’t available, cross in the best-lit location and wait for a gap in traffic. Maintain your situational awareness by keeping your senses in tune with the surroundings — use only one earbud if listening to music.
Cyclists aren’t demolishing vehicles, but you can ride defensively and make safe choices. Always ride with traffic. Protect your brain and PLEASE WEAR A HELMET. Most crashes occur in urban areas at night, so plan to stand out at all times — be bright, reflective and use lights on your bike. Do everything you can to protect yourself. Abiding by so many safety measures may seem tedious, but I promise, your life is worth it.
We can’t ignore, however, that the leading cause of traffic fatalities is careless driving. It basically boils down to this: Drivers, you’re in control of a two-ton death machine on wheels. Sure, we can offer more tips on safe cycling and safe walking, (which we will absolutely do here in a moment, because safety) but when it comes down to it, a human being vs. a mobile mound of metal won’t ever end well for anyone outside the vehicle. That’s why it is imperative that ALL road users make an effort to look out for one another.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation received grant money from the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office to help spread the word about sharing the road. The two agencies worked together and produced radio and television spots, billboard and magazine ads, created a social media presence, and developed a dedicated webpage to direct road users to various resources to help all of us Share the Road. We can bring the number of fatalities down, but we have to do this together. Remember that promise about safety tips? Here they are. This is how we can be more cognizant, connected, and cautious:
CYCLISTS: Be visible and ride alert. Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and always maintain control of your ride.
– Obey traffic laws. The absence of a motor doesn’t exempt you from getting a ticket.
– Ride with traffic. It’s the law. Ride on the right for everyone’s safety.
– Stay in control. Never ride under the influence, unless you want a DUI.
PEDESTRIANS: Walk against traffic (it’s the law) and give extra attention to your surroundings on busy roadways and intersections. Having the right of way does not protect you from a careless driver.
– Use the crosswalk. It’s your safest option.
– Be present. Try to get visual confirmation from others that they see you.
– Be visible. Wear reflective clothing or keep a reflective belt/vest handy when traveling after dark.
MOTORISTS: Commit to being alert and sharing the road with both pedestrians and bicycles. Be patient at intersections or if a bicycle is using your lane.
– Drive alert. Avoid distractions and using devices.
– Watch others. Other travelers have the right to use the roadway.
– Slow down. Give yourself time to react in case of an incident.
Don’t add to the statistics—Safely Share the Road.
Arkansas’s Share the Road webpage at www.ardot.gov/sharetheroad
More Pedestrian Safety at www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/pedestrian-safety
More Bicycle Safety at www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicycle-safety
National Center for Statistics and Analysis at www.nhtsa.gov/data/national-center-statistics-and-analysis
— Britni Padilla-Dumas