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Pedestrians Have More to Fear than the Coronavirus

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

In this uncertain time of the pandemic, more Americans have taken to the streets to get some exercise, relieve stress, or just get out of the house for a period. This is all good and healthy but it also raises the question of pedestrian safety, especially in our larger metropolitan areas such as New York City. Just like pedestrians, drivers have a lot on their minds-the coronavirus, civil unrest, an unstable economy, and a compulsory lockdown that is just now being eased across the country.

Here are some useful safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

10 Walking Safety Tips

  • Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
  • If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
  • Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road.
  • Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross.
  • Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.
  • Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and your judgment.

9 Driving Safety Tips

  • Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. Safety is a shared responsibility.
  • Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the cross-walk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can’t see.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street.
  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where children are present.
  • Be extra cautious when backing up—pedestrians can move into your path.

Safety tips that are particularly relevant in large cities such as New York City such as never running yellow lights. It’s also important to look both ways when a light turns green so as to avoid that other vehicle that just ran a red light.

In these difficult times, we should be taking extra precautions when walking or driving. There is no need to add a tragedy to an already difficult and stressful time.

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