Every year, tens of thousands of people in the United States die in traffic accidents. 38,824 people died in 2020 alone, and negligent driving was the most common factor in these tragic fatalities. While our laws require drivers to pass safety examinations to receive a license, the sad truth is that many drivers don’t recognize the danger of not taking their own power and responsibility seriously
It’s also important to recognize that our roads are meant to accomodate more than just cars. 932 bicyclists and 6,516 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in 2020 . Drivers often primarily look for other cars and simply do not notice the cyclists or pedestrians. Meanwhile, many cyclists and pedestrians believe that they’ll be protected from harm due to traffic laws in their favor, so sometimes they too are not as alert as they should have been. Unfortunately, both of these perspectives have filled many graveyards with people who thought they had, or actually did have, the right of way.
In order to prevent needless death and catastrophic permanent injury, it’s important for everyone involved in traffic to share the road and stay alert to the best of their abilities. Let’s discuss a few of the things that should be done so everyone might share the road safely.
How drivers can share the road
Because cars are the most dangerous and common components of traffic, drivers should treat safety with the highest level of urgency. Many drivers are decades removed from their driving exams, so it’s important to review state traffic laws periodically. Drivers should also only operate motor vehicles when they are sober, well-rested, and focused.
Sharing the road with cyclists
Unfortunately, most U.S. cities don’t feature extensive bicycle lanes, meaning that cyclists are frequently forced to use the same lanes cars do. The first step toward safety for drivers is recognizing that cyclists have all the same rights cars do. Too often, drivers become frustrated by cyclists who move more slowly than they do, sometimes leading to unsafe behaviors. When passing cyclists on the road, be sure to give them more space than you think you need.
Many cyclists use hand signals to warn others about actions they’ll soon take. Take the time to learn basic signals to avoid being caught off guard by turns, stops, and other behaviors.
It’s also important to remember you can hurt a cyclist even after your car is parked. Be sure to always check both side view mirrors before opening your doors, especially if you’re in a dense urban area or there are bike lanes adjacent to you.
While they are usually easier to detect than bicyclists, remember that all these same rules apply to sharing the road with motorcycles.
Sharing the road with pedestrians
While they won’t typically share your lane the way cyclists frequently do, pedestrians are the most common other form of traffic you’ll encounter as a driver. The most important rule to remember is to always give them the right of way, especially at intersections. Even if a pedestrian doesn’t have right of way by law, you still pose a far greater risk to them than they do to you, so it pays to play it safe. Here are a few more important tips:
- Always look both ways before turning at an intersection, especially if you’re turning right on a red light.
- Give pedestrians more space than you think they need.
- Never assume a pedestrian is aware of your presence. Some people have hearing and vision disabilities that make it difficult to detect cars.
- Give extra time to elderly and disabled pedestrians to cross the road.
- Communicate with pedestrians when possible. A simple head nod or thumbs up can show understanding.
- Always devote your full attention to the road. Before you start driving, take a moment to choose your music or take a drink from your water bottle so that you aren’t tempted while driving.
- Use common sense. Millions of scenarios are possible, and a steadfast rule can’t apply to every situation.
How cyclists can share the road
As a cyclist, you represent the middle ground between drivers and pedestrians. While you move faster than pedestrians and occupy the same lanes cars do, you’re also more vulnerable than drivers and still capable of harming others. Follow these tips to stay as safe as possible while sharing the road:
- Always wear a helmet. Head injuries are the number one cause of death in cycling accidents.
- Wear reflective materials on your body and your bike and use headlights while riding at night.
- Use hand signals when turning or stopping.
- Always use bike lanes when they’re available and never ride on sidewalks.
- Don’t take risks you wouldn’t take in a car. This includes weaving in and out of traffic and ignoring traffic signals.
- Devote your full attention to the road. Avoid listening to headphones or fumbling with water bottles while moving.
- Treat pedestrians the same way you would if you were driving a car.
How pedestrians can share the road
Pedestrians must make safety a priority although they are less likely than drivers and cyclists to cause harm to others. Because pedestrians can only control their own behavior, it’s important they take responsibility for their safety too. The best rules for pedestrians to follow are the laws meant to protect them. This means only crossing the street at designated crosswalks when lights signal for them to do so. Pedestrians should also double check for oncoming cars, even when they have the right of way.
In many cities, especially in Oklahoma, pedestrian infrastructure is so abysmal that not even basic crosswalks and sidewalks are available. When this is the case, stay extra alert. If you need to cross the street, wait for a large gap in traffic in a well-lit area before making your crossing. Move quickly and steadily. Walk in the grass when no sidewalks are available if possible. Always walk against the flow of traffic in order to see oncoming cars with more time to react. If you’re walking at night, wear reflective clothing and walk with a flashlight, especially in areas that aren’t well-lit.
Have you or a loved one been involved in a traffic accident?
Even when we try our best to stay safe and vigilant, accidents happen. If you or your loved one has been the victim of catastrophic injury or death due to an auto accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Our team of dedicated lawyers represent victims of accidents involving cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and other vehicles. Contact us today for a free consultation.