Laws Keeping Pedestrians Safe from Injury/Death Mostly Unknown

$3,000 video scholarship contest and outreach campaign aims to teach everyone the rules of the road

Hospitals focus a good deal of their efforts on prevention with the idea that catching disease before it worsens and taking steps to avoid injury is better for the patient’s quality of life and  long term health.  It’s a practical approach to good medical care that wisely uses healthcare resources, thereby driving efficiencies in overall healthcare spending.  This is no more apparent than in the hundreds of pedestrian injuries due to motor vehicle crashes that occur each year in New York State.  And regrettably, many of those injuries result in unnecessary deaths.

According to an Institute for Traffic Safety Management Fact Sheet, 252 pedestrians were killed in 2017 in motor vehicle crashes in New York State and another 15,581 were injured. As a pedestrian, you are most likely to get hit while crossing the street. In fact, more than half (62%) of urban crashes involving pedestrians occurred during crossing, according to the New York State Pedestrian Safety Traffic Plan prepared by the New York State Departments of Transportation and Health and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.

Suburbia’s Poor Driving Habits

Some suburban communities have a particularly poor driving record and are among the worst in the state.  According to an Institute for Traffic Safety report, a total of 2,521 pedestrians were killed or injured in the two counties on Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk) and four Hudson Valley region counties (Westchester, Rockland, Orange, and Dutchess) in 2016.   When New York State communities were ranked by the number of pedestrian crashes that occurred between 2009 and 2013, the community of Hempstead on Long Island had the highest number of crashes of all communities in upstate New York and Long Island.

Research confirms that drivers are at fault for 60 percent of pedestrian-related crashes. Our state has dozens of laws in place to protect pedestrians and motorists.  However, these are mostly unknown by the average citizen.  Do you know these rules of the road?

  • Pedestrians have the right of way in all crosswalks and at intersections with marked or unmarked crosswalks.
  • Motorists have the right of way at all locations other than intersections and marked crosswalks.
  • If you choose not to use a crosswalk, you relinquish your right of way and must yield to vehicles.
  • Jaywalking, or crossing an intersection diagonally is also considered illegal and could land you with a ticket and hefty fine.
  • Trying to hail a cab or find your Uber? As a pedestrian, the law prohibits you from standing in the road for almost any reason including trying to catch a ride or guarding a parking spot.

Additional information can be found on New York State’s pedestrian safety website.

Better to “See and Be Seen”

New York State’s “See and Be Seen” public education campaign is an effort to teach citizens about the rules of the road.  The New York Coalition for Transportation Safety in conjunction with other traffic safety advocate organizations and the Long Island Health Collaborative is aggressively promoting traffic safety laws.  Through its Walk Safe Long Island campaign, these groups are in local schools, libraries, senior centers, and all sorts of community gathering places teaching walkers, bikers, and drivers how to be safe on the roads.

$3,000 Video Scholarship Contest

Children, teens, and young adults are especially vulnerable. Pedestrians between the ages of 10 and 29 are most likely to be involved in a pedestrian-related crash.  That’s why Walk Safe Long Island is holding a video scholarship contest for high school juniors and seniors and college freshmen and sophomores.  The rules are simple.  Create a short video that illustrates one or more of the Vehicle and Traffic Laws for Pedestrian Enforcement.  The intent of the competition is to encourage more widespread understanding about various pedestrian/traffic safety laws.  For more information about the contest rules, pedestrian and vehicle laws, and how to submit a video go to The deadline is August 31, 2019.

It’s not enough to simply follow the rules of the road. Pedestrians must pay attention to their environment to fully ensure their safety. The ITSMR data referenced above indicates that 31 percent of crashes that result in a pedestrian injury or fatality occur when a pedestrian is crossing with the traffic signal. That’s why it’s important to “see and be seen”. Be sure to pay attention while walking and especially while crossing the street. This means avoid texting and crossing at all costs since pedestrian errors or confusion is responsible for almost 31% of crashes involving injury or death. Make eye contact with drivers at the intersection so that you can ensure they see you and look before crossing even if you have the right of way.

Remember, stay safe by learning the rules of the road and “See and Be Seen!”


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