Why Walking in Houston Can be Dangerous

On May 8, the Houston City Council approved a new ordinance aimed at protecting the city’s “vulnerable road users.” The law defines a safe distance for vehicles passing runners, walkers, bicyclists and others.

The law is part of ongoing efforts around the city to make streets more friendly for Houston pedestrians. A 2009 project called for $2.9 million in improvements, including newer traffic signals with countdown warning lights and sound signals for pedestrians, as well as new sidewalks. With rows of commercial strips, flea markets and a car-oriented city structure, it makes sense that Houston pedestrians should walk the city with extreme care. Here are some tips for pedestrians and drivers to safely share Houston roadways.

Reduce Walking Accidents

To walk out of harm’s way, keep the following pedestrian tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mind:

  • Cross the street at a designated crosswalk. Nearly 80 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersections, according to a national study released last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Be careful at intersections where drivers may fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians while turning onto another street.
  • The NHTSA study showed a majority of pedestrian fatalities, 68 percent, occur during the nighttime. The CDC suggests increasing your visibility at night by wearing retro-reflective clothing.
  • It’s safest to walk on a sidewalk, but if you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic.

Reduce Driving Accidents

Minimize your chances of an accident by following these safety tips from the Highway Safety Research Center:

  • Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it is not marked. When you stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, stop well back so that drivers in the other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.
  • Do not overtake and pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians.
  • Be especially attentive around schools and in neighborhoods where children are active.
  • Pedestrians can be very hard to see — especially in bad weather or at night. You must keep a lookout and slow down if you can’t see clearly.

Of course, it’s also important that you never engage in distracted driving. It’s dangerous, and it can be against the law. In Houston, drivers are prohibited from talking on a cellphone while driving in a school zone, but not outside these zones. While Texas has no restrictions on texting while driving outside of school zones, Mayor Annise Parker, in April, kicked off a citywide campaign against texting while driving. A bill currently with the Texas Senate would ban texting and driving.

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