BOISE – During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Idahoans have adjusted their normal routines to spend more time working and studying from home. While that’s led to reduced traffic congestion in some areas, it could also put more pedestrians at risk, as walkers, joggers and runners increasingly find themselves sharing neighborhood streets with cars throughout the day.
“Obviously, this year has been unique, and a lot of recess and work breaks are happening in residential areas right now. If drivers aren’t paying attention, pedestrians could be put in harm’s way,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. “We still have some nice weather ahead, and drivers should expect people to be out and about.”
October is National Pedestrian Safety Month, a reminder for drivers and pedestrians to share the streets safely. According to the Idaho Transportation Department, there were 237 crashes involving pedestrians on Gem State roads last year, including 14 fatalities and 64 serious injuries. In Idaho, the group of pedestrians most likely to be injured in a crash was 4 to 14-year-olds. Across the country, there were 6,283 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in 2018 – one every 84 minutes.
AAA says that drivers should eliminate distractions and carefully scan the road for pedestrians, including children who may be playing in the area. Pedestrians can do their part by making eye contact with drivers before they step into the road, even if they’re at an intersection or crosswalk.
“It’s always important to remember that a crosswalk isn’t a force field,” Conde said. “Just because you have the right-of-way doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful and vigilant.”
Drivers shouldn’t rely on new automotive technology, like automatic emergency braking, to take the place of watching for people in the road. During recent AAA research, these systems failed to detect the presence of pedestrians, striking mannequins on a closed course in nearly every testing scenario.
“Our hope is to close out the year by avoiding senseless tragedies on our roads,” Conde said.