New Mexico usually enjoys sustained summer weather into the hot-air balloon laden mornings of October. This year, warm weather is lingering in Rio Rancho more than usual. Even as the summer heat leads into crisp fall mornings, residents in the City of Vision can still enjoy their routine walks and jogs. Rio Rancho’s walking trails offer numerous options, from the high-desert mesa environment on the paths at Cherry Open Space, to the system of Prescription Trails, where patients fulfill their doctors’ recommendations for outdoor exercise. As valuable as walking and jogging outside can be for our emotional and physical health, this form of exercise comes with risks.
Pedestrian Fatalities at a High
In 2019, a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association predicted 6,590 pedestrian fatalities for the year—the highest number since 1988. Through June 2019, New Mexico had the highest fatality rates per 100,000 people.
The study cited several possible reasons for the year-over-year increase in pedestrian fatalities, including the popularity of SUVs. Drivers in larger vehicles can have more difficulty seeing pedestrians. While sedans still account for more traffic accidents involving pedestrians, walkers hit by SUVs are more likely to suffer serious injuries or death. The report also pointed to causes such as warmer weather, during which more people are outside recreating, and an increase in distracted driving due to cell phone use. With that in mind, as Rio Rancho’s injury attorneys, we’d like to share a few tips to stay safe while walking.
Tips to Stay Safe While Walking
- Cross Safely: Most pedestrian fatalities take place on local streets away from intersections. This emphasizes the need for pedestrians to cross only at designated crossing areas and with signals. At controlled intersections, only proceed when you receive a crossing signal. Without a crossing signal, drivers may still have a green light and won’t be expecting you in the crosswalk. It’s also wise to make eye contact with drivers to make sure you’re seen. If you’re not able to locate a crossing, wait for a break in traffic with enough time to cross safely before doing so.
- Be Visible: The majority of pedestrian fatalities take place at night. According to the GHSA report, the number of nighttime pedestrian fatalities increased by 67% in 2019. So, walkers could stay safer by walking during the day. Even then, it’s wise to make yourself visible with bright, neon clothing. If you’re walking at night, wear reflective clothing and/or lights to make yourself more visible to drivers.
- Walk Facing Traffic: Never walk with your back to traffic. Walking toward traffic will enable you to see vehicles as they approach and take evasive action if needed. Walk on sidewalks and trails if they are available.
- Be Predictable: Stay on one side of a path and avoid weaving from side to side. Drivers need to see you and anticipate where you’ll be next.
- Don’t Tune Out: Drowning out the world with music while exercising can be a powerful motivator. However, it also makes you less safe. Keep the volume of your music or audiobooks at a level where you can hear your surroundings, whether it’s a bike bell or an approaching vehicle. If you’re wearing earbuds, you could also wear a single bud so you can still tune into your surroundings. Some earbuds also have a transparency mode that allows more ambient sound.
- Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: Drivers aren’t the only ones who fall victim to distraction. Chatting on the phone, texting, or playing games, including the popular location-based game Pokemon Go, while walking is dangerous. Your eyes and head will be down and your attention will be elsewhere. You won’t be as aware of your environment and able to respond quickly to any potential threats. So, if you need to check your phone, make sure you’re in a safe place and stop to do so.
- Avoid Substances: Alcohol and drugs can impair your abilities and judgment while driving—and while walking.
- Go with the Popular Crowd: If possible, choose a walking route where you won’t encounter cars, such as multi-use paths in natural areas. However, if you’re going to be walking near traffic, choose a route that other walkers, runners, and cyclists frequent. With more people around, drivers are more likely to be attuned to the presence of pedestrians and drive accordingly.
Even after taking these safety precautions, you may find yourself injured and in need of legal assistance. In this case, contact Sanchez and Piñon, Rio Rancho’s accident attorneys. We’ll provide a free consultation to discuss the legal representation options that are right for you.