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On foot, obey your signals and forget the cellphone

Published August 24, 2012

There have been 14 pedestrians killed in Toronto this year. Drivers must drive safely, but pedestrians need to behave responsibly, too.

If you are walking and have the right-of-way, you need to think about what could happen to you if you are hit by a car.

Keep these safety tips in mind:

1. Look both ways It’s the basic rule, but one many people forget. Make sure you follow this even on one-way streets, as a cyclist or motorist could be going the wrong way. Don’t just practise this on the street. Check both directions before you cross traffic lanes between the mall parking lot and the store, too.

2. Walk facing traffic
This is a must if there is no sidewalk and you’re on the road shoulder. It’s also a good idea even if you’re on the sidewalk as it lets you keep an eye on what’s coming at you.

3. Be visible Don’t wear dark clothes if you’re walking at night, especially if you’re in an area that doesn’t have much street lighting. Make sure hoods, scarves or hats don’t block your peripheral vision when you cross the street.

4. Put down the phone Cellphones and text messages don’t just distract drivers. Pedestrians become so engrossed with their phones they sometimes walk out on a red light or into traffic.

5. Lose the headphones, too
Much of our perception of nearby traffic comes from hearing it. A surprising number of people are killed by cars — and trains, of all things — because they don’t hear them.

6. Walk straight across the street Don’t cross on a diagonal. It leaves you out in traffic longer and can confuse drivers who may not be sure exactly where you’re going.

7. Obey your signals on advanced green lights If the flashing green or arrow is up, but your pedestrian signal still indicates “Don’t walk,” stay put. Crossing on an advanced green will put you in the path of drivers who will turn in front of you. If they have to stop for you, this will leave them in oncoming traffic when all the lights turn green. Even if you’re on the opposite side, wait for your “OK to walk” signal. The advanced green may also allow drivers to make right-hand turns while traffic from the other direction is stopped.

8. Use proper crossings
Whenever you can, cross at a traffic light or crosswalk. At the crosswalk, use the buttons or point and don’t walk out until all traffic has stopped for you. On multi-lane roads, be very careful if you’re crossing an empty lane; drivers approaching may not realize why other cars are stopped and could drive straight through.

At a light, obey any pedestrian signals. Watch for drivers who may be turning right on a red light but are watching traffic to their left. Make eye contact and be sure you’ve been spotted. Don’t confuse drivers. If you don’t plan to cross, don’t stand near the edge of the sidewalk.

9. Walk smart in parking lots They’re full of drivers who seem to forget that once people park, they generally become pedestrians. Scan for backup lights and never walk behind a car that’s backing up unless you’re sure the driver knows you’re there.

Be cautious when you approach empty spots, as a driver may be concentrating on grabbing it and not looking ahead at you. Watch for those who drive diagonally across empty parking areas, rather than up and down the aisle.

10. Set an example Children learn by mimicking.

If they see you crossing on red lights, jaywalking or stepping out without looking, they’ll do the same.

Don’t let them run ahead of you in parking lots, where they can be invisible to drivers backing up, especially in SUVs. Teach them traffic rules and you’ll help to keep them safe.

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