Pedestrian safety in Washington State

Most of us are pedestrians at one time or another every day. We usually take for granted that we can walk without incident, because most of the time we do. However, collisions still occur.
Two children walking on a sidewalk

Injury Minimization Speed Management Workgroup

Led by WSDOT, this multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction work group was formed to develop policies and guidelines that will emphasize ways to achieve vehicle travel speeds that minimize fatal and serious injury crashes. To address the needs of all users, the proposed policies and guidelines would emphasize lower speeds where appropriate, on state routes, city streets, county and tribal roads.  The intent is to support implementation of an injury minimization speed limit methodology prioritizing multi-modal exposure areas.  The group is working to understand current practices being used in Washington State to set speed limits and utilize traffic calming treatments. If you are a transportation professional involved in this work please take our survey!

Background - In each of the past five years, there has been an increase in the number of pedestrians killed on the roads of Washington State, more than doubling since 2013.  According to Washington’s Target Zero Plan, vehicle-traveling speed is a critical factor and one of the key first steps to addressing deaths and serious injuries among pedestrians and bicyclists.  The status quo of road design and speed limit setting is not resulting in the reductions needed to achieve Washington’s Target Zero goal of zero pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities by 2030.  The Washington State Pedestrian Safety Advisory Council confirmed the findings in the Target Zero Plan and recommended the formation of this group.

 

Even though Washington has a record for pedestrian safety that compares favorably to many other states, collisions do happen and we must continue to improve the safety record.

Washington is aggressively pursuing goals outlined that will make pedestrians and bicyclists even safer in the state, outlined in the:

Statistically, young children and the elderly are more likely than others to be killed or injured in a pedestrian collision.

The best way to avoid collisions is to be prepared and be aware of vehicles around you. While the law assigns pedestrians the right of way, it does not relieve pedestrians of using due care for their own safety. 

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

  • Walk on sidewalks. If sidewalks are not available, walk on the edge of the road or on the left shoulder of the road, facing the traffic flow. Use pedestrian bridges when they are available.
     
  • Cross at marked crosswalks or intersections. Pedestrians are most often hit by cars when they cross the road at places other than intersections.
     
  • Look left, right, and left for traffic. Stop at the curb and look left, right, and left again for traffic. Stopping at the curb signals drivers that you intend to cross. Always obey traffic signals.
     
  • See and be seen. Drivers need to see you to avoid you.
    • Stay out of the driver's blind spot.
    • Make eye contact with drivers when crossing busy streets.
    • Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking near traffic at night.
    • Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
    • Do not let kids play near traffic or cross the street by themselves.
    • In bad weather, take care that your umbrella or raincoat does not prevent approaching vehicles from seeing you.
       
  • Watch your kids. Small children should not cross streets by themselves or be allowed to play or walk near traffic. Kids cannot accurately judge vehicle distances and speeds and may make unpredictable movements.
     
  • Drinking and walking? Alcohol can impair the judgment and motor skills of pedestrians just as it does for drivers. Don't take alcohol risks with walking, just as you would not with driving. Take the bus, take a cab, or have a friend drive you home. Beware of the effects of prescription and non-prescription medications and drugs, too.
     
  • Obey traffic signals. At intersections where traffic is controlled by signals or a traffic officer, pedestrians must obey the signal and not cross against the stop signal unless specifically directed to go by a traffic officer.