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Halloween pedestrian safety
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For Pedestrians:
• Walk on a sidewalk or path whenever one is available.

• If there is no sidewalk or path available, walk facing traffic (on the left side of the road) on the shoulder, as far away from traffic as possible.

• Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including radios, smart phones and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road environment.

• Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles. Never assume a driver sees you. Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.

• Be predictable as a pedestrian. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.

• Look left, right, and left again when crossing and keep looking as you are crossing.

For Drivers:
• Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. That means don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including radios, smart phones and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road environment.

• Be especially vigilant for pedestrians in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in bad weather.

• Slowdown and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.

• Always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.

• Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.

• Follow the speed limit, especially around pedestrians and in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present.

Halloween is coming.

We as a community do such a great job of offering safe trick-or-treat options to our youth between the churches, the neighborhoods and the downtown areas. All the children get excited about what they are going to be for Halloween — my 3-year old announced at the dinner table last night that he was going to go as a cow. I haven’t decided how that was going to happen yet but I am excited nonetheless.

Recently, we have seen a lot of information regarding Halloween safety. This paper as well as regional and national coverage encourages us to follow safety tips for Halloween. These are wonderful and important tips for watching out for our little ghouls and boysters. But here’s what gets me — why don’t we follow these safety tips year round?

I am not talking about the tips for screening your child’s candy or even opting for reflective clothing. I am talking about the common sense safety precautions we seem to have forgotten as we have become more vehicle dependent.

I was stopped in my vehicle at the light of Hwy. 278 and Hwy. 142, arguably a very busy intersection. I cringed as I watched a young man try to cross eight lanes of traffic… not at the crosswalk a mere 10 feet away. I am happy to say that he made it across the road but not after some maneuvers that looked eerily similar to the 1980s video game, Frogger.

Earlier this month was National Walk to School Day. I grew up in a time and place where kids walked to school in groups. We played in the neighborhood streets until dark. My mother walked to the corner grocery at least once a week. How did we get to a point where we take basic pedestrian safety for granted?

There is one thing that we all share — everyone is or has been a pedestrian. Whether you walk through the parking lot from the car to the store or your two feet are your primary mode of transportation everywhere you go, we are all still pedestrians at one level or another.

Pedestrians are one of the few groups of road users to experience an increase in fatalities in the US. On average, a pedestrian was killed every 2 hours and injured every 7 minutes in traffic crashes. More pedestrian fatalities occur in an urban setting versus a rural setting, which makes sense considering density. About two thirds of pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersections versus at intersections, making it even more important to find crosswalks when appropriate and available. The majority of pedestrian fatalities occurred during normal weather conditions (clear/cloudy) and during the early nighttime/dusk hours (6 p.m. – 9 p.m.).

We discuss at considerable length the safety precautions to take at Halloween because it seems so obvious — our kids are out at dusk and in costumes. But what about the other 364 days of the year? What rules of the road do we adhere to and which do we shrug off for convenience? There common sense safety practices we should have, not only for our kids but for ourselves.

Whatever kind of pedestrian you are, don’t just practice your common sense safety on Halloween. Let’s have common sense all through the year.

Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects and has led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.