Walking is a simple, low-impact activity that people of almost any age can do to help stay in shape, but there are still dangers. In order to keep yourself safe as a pedestrian, there are a few rules of thumb you need to keep in mind. This is doubly true if you find yourself walking on the road itself, and not on a footpath or sidewalk. To keep yourself safe while you’re out walking, remember these rules:

Face Traffic

If there is no sidewalk where you’re walking, walk on the side of the road where you’ll be facing oncoming traffic. That means that if cars drive on the right side of the road, as they do in North America, you should walk on the left. That way you’ll be able to see cars headed toward you, and give you a chance to dive or dodge out of the way if necessary. If you’re a cyclist, though, you still need to ride in the same direction as traffic.


crossing street

Cross the Street Safely

The most obvious rule to keep in mind when crossing a street is the one that your mother probably told you when you were a child: look both ways before you cross. If you’re at an intersection with stoplights, it’s best to wait until the pedestrian crossing light turns on.Keep an eye out anyway, though – drivers and cyclists who have a green light can still turn across the pedestrian crossing, so watch out. Wave or make eye contact with drivers who may be turning to make sure they see you. It’s their job to watch out, but if there’s a collision between you and a car, the car won’t be the one to suffer any damage. Jaywalking can save you time, but it is also a ticketable traffic offense as well as a safety hazard. Just avoid it.

Walk Single File

If you aren’t on a sidewalk or in a separate lane from vehicle traffic, you should walk in a single file line. This gives the vehicle traffic the widest berth possible, so they’ll be able to avoid you more easily. This is even more important on curvy, narrow roads, where a car might only have a second or two to twitch the wheel and avoid running you over. It might be more comfortable to walk side-by-side, but it isn’t safe.

Be Aware of Runners and Cyclists

You’ll need to share the road with runners and cyclists in addition to cars. Cyclists should alert you to their approach by yelling “passing on your left (or right)!” Keep your ears open and move over to allow them to pass safely. Runners should signal their approach similarly. Cyclists aren’t as much of a danger as cars, but they’re moving quickly and can still break pedestrians’ bones or give concussions, so watch out.

Make Sure You’re Visible

If you’re walking during the day, wear bright colors so that you’re easy to see. At night, you should still wear bright colors, but you should also wear a reflective vest. Drivers don’t usually expect walkers to be out after dark, so you need to make sure they can see you. Be extra careful around dawn or dusk, as drivers may have the rising or setting sun in their eyes.

Move Predictably

Make it a habit to walk on one side of the path or the other – don’t move randomly from one side to the other, or weave. Try to keep your arms by your sides, as wild arm gestures can have you accidentally hitting passing runners or cyclists.

Don’t Blast Music

Listening to an audiobook or some music while you’re out on a walk is certainly a pleasant experience, but it can be unsafe. Make sure it’s quiet enough that you can still maintain a safe level of awareness about your environment. You’ll need to hear bike bells, approaching cars, and “on your left!” callouts. It’s also better for your ears.

Put Your Phone Away

Texting or playing games like Pokemon Go on your phone while you walk is dangerous, just like it is when you’re driving. If you are distracted, you won’t be as aware of your environment. You could fail to notice danger from other traffic, not see other joggers and cyclists, or trip on something. Pickpockets and other criminals will see you as an easy target. Keep your phone in your pocket while walking, or at least stop somewhere safe to use your phone before you move on.

Keep Your Dogs on a Short Leash

Whether they’re on a leash or not, it is scary and sometimes tragic to see dogs run off into traffic or get into dog fights. When you walk your dog on a long leash, those things can happen, and they can also trip cyclists or walkers. Keep your dog and the people around you safe by keeping your dog on a leash, and by making sure that the leash is short enough to keep your dog under your control.

Don’t Overdo It

Walking is one of the safest physical activities there is, but it’s not completely without danger. Heat sickness, heart attacks, strokes, and dehydration can occur with overexertion, no matter how old you are. You should make sure that you know what the symptoms of these medical emergencies are, and you should keep a cell phone on you so that you can call 911. Even if you are an experienced walker, cut your walk short if you experience these symptoms, and encourage your friends to do the same.

Watch Out for Strangers

Street safety is important. When you walk, choose a route that is well-traveled by other walkers, joggers, and cyclists. If you see anyone or anything suspicious, change course and go into a store or public building to avoid danger. Act alert to convince any potential criminals that you won’t be an easy target.

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