Driving safely in winter weather can be a challenge for even the most experienced driver. It's easy to forget after months of mild conditions that snow and ice demand careful driving and special preparations. The same goes for pedestrians who must continue to walk safely as the weather becomes colder.
At some point in your day — whether walking to your vehicle, walking to the train for your commute, walking to school, or walking because it is your primary form of transportation — most of us become pedestrians.
Winter brings additional challenges for those walking, including cold weather, icy sidewalks, snowstorms, less visibility, and fewer hours of daylight.
According to PennDOT crash statistics, there were 64 pedestrian crashes on icy or snow/slush covered roadways, involving 69 total pedestrians from September 2020 through April 2021. This included 66 injuries and 1 fatality to pedestrians in those crashes.
As a pedestrian dealing with the elements, you know you cannot always control what a driver is doing, but it's best to use caution and try to anticipate your surroundings.
Just like black ice can form on roadways, ice can also accumulate on sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. Black ice is transparent and allows the color of the underlying surface to show through. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to notice until you have stepped on it. Always be on the lookout, and aware of your elements and surroundings.
Take it Slow
If you do experience slippery conditions, take your time. Often referred to as the penguin walk, bend your knees slightly, take short steps, keep your hands and arms out to your sides for balance, shuffle your feet and walk slowly.
Always cross the street at an intersection and avoid entering the road from between parked cars or behind snow piles. Additionally, distracted walking can be as dangerous as distracted driving. While it is good to have a phone with you in case of an emergency, it is best to keep your eyes off your phone while walking. As with driving, you may become distracted, bump into things, or slip-on ice if you don't pay attention.
Wear Proper Clothing
Before heading out in the winter months, it is best to check the weather so you can dress appropriately in brightly colored clothing. Shoes with proper traction can prevent falls. It's also best to wear gloves and not place your hands in your pockets while walking. If you fall suddenly, your hands can help catch you.
No Impaired Walking
Remember impaired walking can be dangerous. Be aware of the effects that prescription medicines can have on you. On days where you might find yourself impaired, it would be best to take public transportation or ask a sober friend for help in getting home.
Make Eye Contact with Drivers
Remember, the roads may be slippery for drivers in winter weather. Have eye contact with the driver and make sure vehicles come to a complete stop before you proceed to cross.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 17 percent of all vehicle crashes occur during winter conditions. As we work to lessen this percentage, it's still clear having a refresher on these tips can be helpful for pedestrians and motorists. Please stay safe while traveling through Pennsylvania's winter wonderlands this season.