Pedestrians Use the Road, Too.


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When motor vehicles were becoming common in the late 1800s, the British Parliament passed a series of laws called the Locomotive Acts to govern the use of mechanical, self-propelled vehciles (otherwise known as “road locomotives”). The Red Flag Act of 1865, for example, established a speed limit of 2 m.p.h. on city streets for all road locomotives (including automobiles), and a 4 m.p.h. speed limit on country roads. Also, if a road locomotive was towing two or more other vehicles (like wagons), they had to hire a man to walk sixty feet in front of the vehicle holding a red flag to warn pedestrians, horseback riders and horse-drawn carriages of the oncoming road locomotive to avoid collision and injury.

We don’t use flaggers in front of automobiles anymore, and now automobiles are smaller, faster, quieter than back then. This can present a real danger for pedestrians.

While total traffic accident fatalities have steadily decreased since 1993, a recent report by Transport Canada showed increases in pedestrian fatalities in 2011 and 2012 (the most recent year for which data is available) compared to previous years. Pedestrian fatalities represented 15.9% of all traffic fatalities in 2011, and 15% in 2012.

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Injuries account for a similar share. In 2012, pedestrian injuries accounted for 14.4% of all serious injuries in auto accidents.

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While Alpine Insurance offers car insurance for drivers to cover any financial responsibility for injuring others in a traffic accident, the best course of action is to prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths. While it’s not realistic to hire a flagger to walk in front of your car these days, there are a few things you can do now to keep pedestrians safe.

  1. Always be watching for the presence of pedestrians. Safety is a shared responsibility.
  2. When driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in bad weather, use extra caution.
  3. Slow down and be prepared to stop when approaching a crosswalk.
  4. Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop your vehicle well before the crosswalk to allow other drivers to see crossing pedestrians too.
  5. Do not pass vehicles that are stopped at a crosswalk. They may be allowing pedestrians to cross that you can’t see.
  6. Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs.
  7. Be diligent in following the speed limit, especially when there are people on the street.
  8. Slow down near schools and in neighborhoods where there are children present.
  9. Be alert when backing up – pedestrians can step into your path.

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