Pedestrians still at risk in Austin

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If you encounter a car as a pedestrian, you’ll almost certainly lose. Even relatively low-speed collisions can cause internal injuries, broken bones or even death. While the city of Austin has been trying to cut down on car accidents and the resulting injuries, the streets remain dangerous for pedestrians. If you’re on foot near a roadway, you have to stay incredibly alert.

An Ambitious Plan

Austin joined a growing number of cities worldwide when it rolled out its own Vision Zero plan in 2016, following record fatalities on the road during the previous year. Vision Zero is a movement that began in Sweden twenty years ago and seeks to aggressively reduce road injuries and death until they’re finally eliminated altogether. The philosophy behind this movement says that while drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists will always make mistakes, road design should try to minimize any resulting injury from those mistakes.

Mixed Results

Austin’s goal is to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries by 2025, splitting efforts between education, engineering and enforcement. It’s taken some initial steps. City officials have installed more pedestrian signals and tried to redesign the most dangerous intersections, where possible.

However, these efforts haven’t yielded the desired results just yet. Injuries and deaths have been slightly reduced from 2015 levels, but pedestrians are no safer near the roads, still accounting for a third of the deaths.

Some argue that in a world of distracted driving, simply preventing an increase in traffic deaths is an accomplishment. Still, to hit the desired 2025 target date, Austin will have to take much more aggressive steps.

Pedestrian Safety Tips

Until Austin has more comprehensively overhauled roads with pedestrian safety in mind, walkers will need to maintain heightened vigilance. Here are some things that can keep you safe while on foot:

  • Stay visible. Drivers not seeing pedestrians is one of the biggest factors in collisions. Wear light-colored clothing during the day and reflective clothing at night.
  • Stay alert. Distracted walking can be just as dangerous as distracted driving, and carries more serious consequences. If you’re in a crosswalk, put down your cellphone.
  • Stay in designated areas. This includes sidewalks, crosswalks and other places intended for foot traffic. If you have to cross a street without any of these, do so in the most well-lit section of the road.
  • Stay sober. In half of all crashes involving pedestrians, alcohol was a factor. A third of the time, it was the pedestrian who’d been drinking. Walking home is always safer than driving if you’ve had several drinks, but you also need to remember that even sidewalks and crosswalks can still be hazardous.

Keeping your wits about you and using common sense is always important, even when you’re not in a car. With these simple tips, you can hopefully avoid cars altogether.

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