Watch what you’re wearing while out walking

Monday afternoon about 4:30 p.m. my friend and I were driving back to town from Spokane. From Fifth Avenue we turned left onto Lake Street. At Fourth Street a car turned right onto Lake Street with their high beams blaring. On the corner were two pedestrians, both of them wearing really dark clothing. We didn’t see them until they stepped off the curb.

Fortunately there wasn’t an accident. This couple, out for a little walk, could so easily have been struck and killed that it makes my stomach ache just thinking about it.

So today’s safety reminder is to be sure to wear bright colored or white clothes, a reflective stripe or two and to carry a flashlight when out strolling, running or jogging after dark. And please be sure that you’re not preoccupied when crossing streets in the too likely event that drivers are distracted by something else as in our case where it was another driver.

You know what it’s like when you’re behind the wheel and you’re looking for an unfamiliar address? I once plowed through a red light in a very busy intersection because I was trying to figure out where the driveway was to the parking garage of a hospital! I was spared a collision, but not a well-deserved traffic ticket. What if there had been a pedestrian crossing that street? I shudder.

The American Automobile Association predicts that 48.7 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from their home this weekend. That’s a 1.9 percent increase over last year and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007. They define the weekend starting today and running through Sunday.

So, in Bonner County that would mean that around 800 more of us will be on the road than normal. All the more reason to be more careful when out and about.

The CDC says, “In 2013, 4,735 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States. This averages to one crash related pedestrian death every two hours. Additionally, more than 150,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2013. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip.”

Everyone is at risk, but the CDC notes that some people are at higher risk. “Pedestrians ages 65 and older accounted for 19 percent of all pedestrian deaths and an estimated 10 percent of all pedestrians injured in 2013.”

In that same year, one in every five children under 14 years of age, who were killed in traffic accidents were pedestrians.

Alcohol was involved in 49 percent of the traffic crashes that involved pedestrian deaths. What may surprise you is that the alcohol in 34 percent of the cases was consumed by the pedestrian. In 15 percent of the cases the driver had a blood alcohol greater than the .08 per deciliter which is considered impaired in this state.

The CDC also says that male pedestrians are more likely to die or be injured in a motor vehicle crash than females and, that teens and young adults (15 to 29 year olds) are most likely to be treated in emergency departments than any other age group.

With darkness descending on us so early in the afternoon it’s very important for those of us behind the wheel to watch out for pedestrians by making certain that we’re not side tracked. You wouldn’t believe, well, maybe you would be, at how many people I spotted Monday holding their cellphones to their ears or texting with the phone in both hands with just the base of their palms on the steering wheel.

Pedestrians should always cross at designated crosswalks or at intersections. Walk on sidewalks where we have them and where we don’t, walk on the shoulder facing traffic. Don’t look at your cellphone or other electronic device while walking. Watch for traffic. Don’t have your tunes pounding your ear buds so loudly that you can’t hear approaching vehicles. And, don’t run out from between parked cars.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Committee. She can be reached at 208-264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.