Thursday, April 7, 2016

Walking into Spring

Amanda Niskala

Amanda Niskala

Birds are chirping, the sun is shining- spring is here! As temperatures outside start to increase, so does the number of people outdoors enjoying the weather and walking to where they need to go.

Walking as a means of transportation not only has its health benefits, but it is also good for the environment. It is important to follow the rules of the road when using sidewalks and crosswalks and to be aware of potential hazards when one is outside enjoying the warmer weather. Potential hazards could lead to injury, and injuries to pedestrians are often severe. Although most people survive being hit by a car, they are often left with long-term disabilities such as permanent damage related to head, organ and bone injuries.

Key messages for pedestrians:
  • Pedestrians should remember to only cross the street at corners or in crosswalks. Choosing not to do so could result in injury or a jaywalking ticket. Use streets with sidewalks. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and in single file, keeping a safe distance from traffic.
  • Use the crossing light if there is one. Make sure that all traffic has stopped even after the “Walk” signal turns on. Never assume that traffic has stopped because you have the right of way. Always take that extra couple seconds to pause, and proceed. If you see a red flashing hand, which signals “Don’t Walk”- don’t walk! Wait for the next light.
  • Wait for traffic to come to a complete stop, paying attention to traffic in all lanes. Some 45-per-cent of the drivers in casualty collisions involving a pedestrian were recorded as failing to yield the right-of-way to the pedestrian. Drivers making a right hand turn on a red light might not see you. Drivers turning left across traffic might not see you either.
  • Walk - don’t run - across the street.
  • Pay attention! Texting, talking on your phone or wearing head phones takes your focus away from your surroundings and possible hazards. Look and listen for vehicles before crossing.
  • Make sure drivers can see you, making eye contact with drivers before you cross the street.
  • If you are walking at night, make sure to wear bright or reflective clothing.
Keep in mind that children “do as they see” and look to adults as role models. Teaching children at a young age and modeling safe crossing practices is important. Practicing proper and safe crossing techniques every time will ensure your safety and others as well. It is important that we remember the rules of the road (and sidewalk) as a pedestrian, as we go into the spring and summer months because even though pedestrians may have the right of way in cross walks, they also have the responsibility to cross safely. Drivers hold a lot of responsibility to follow the rules of the road, pedestrians should be as well.

Amanda Niskala is a Health Promotion Facilitator at Medicine Hat Community Health Services. Amanda can be reached by e-mail at

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