Step one: Stay alert.

Don’t assume that drivers notice you, are paying attention, or will follow the law. Watch for them! When crossing a street, always look left-right-left, then cross only if it is clear. Continue to check for traffic as you walk, particularly for turning vehicles. Be especially aware when walking across driveways and through parking lots.

Step two: Be predictable.

Sometimes motorists are unsure whether a pedestrian wants to cross. If you don’t want to cross, move back from the edge of the roadway to avoid confusion. If you do want to cross, establish eye-to-eye contact with motorists. If you’re not sure whether a driver sees you, let the car go first. Always walk on the sidewalk if there is one. If not, walk facing traffic (unless the roadway is divided by a raised median). Facing the oncoming traffic gives you more time to react and is more predictable to motorists.

Step three: Follow the signals.

Remember to obey all pedestrian signals at intersections. A green light or white pedestrian signal means its your turn to go, but you should still check for traffic first. A flashing red signal means it’s fine to continue crossing if you’ve already started, but don’t begin to cross – there’s not enough time. When the pedestrian signal is solid red, you must wait to cross. Every intersection is considered a pedestrian crosswalk, whether it’s marked or unmarked. If you cross a street anywhere else, you must yield to motor vehicle traffic.

Step four: Make sure you’re seen.

Many motorists are distracted and not looking for pedestrians. Improve your safety by choosing bright-colored clothing for daytime walks and wear something retro-reflective for low-light or nighttime conditions. Carrying a bright flashlight can also help. See the chart below for more information about what to wear for maximum nighttime visibility.

Step five: Be careful at the curb.

Pennsylvania statutes place responsibility on pedestrians not to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and move into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard (PA CODE Title 75 Ch 35 Subchapter C). Even if you have the legal right-of-way, the law can’t repair broken bones or a severe head injury. So look for traffic before you step off the curb, and keep checking as you walk. Don’t enter the street between parked cars without checking for impending movement: a driver at the wheel, back-up lights or tailpipe exhaust. Be aware that large cars, trucks and delivery vans can hide you from motorists – and that these vehicles have blind spots where their drivers can’t see you. Also remember that the larger the vehicle, the longer it takes to stop.

Graphic from Cornell University Cooperative Extension Program Actionwear Clothing for Fitness Report

Walk smart and stay safe.

While pedestrians generally have the right of way, we also have a responsibility for our own safety. Whenever vehicles are present, establish eye-to-eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you and are stopping before you begin to walk.

Stay bright at night!

Studies show that pedestrians wearing dark colors at night are first seen by motorists at about 55 feet away – but a driver going only 20 M.P.H. needs at least 64 feet to stop, even on dry pavement! A pedestrian wearing white is first seen at around 180 feet. But a pedestrian wearing something retro-reflective is first seen from 500 feet away, allowing a motorist going even 60 M.P.H. more than enough time to stop. Retro-reflective materials, which direct light back at the motorist, give pedestrians the highest visibility at night. They can be found at most sporting goods stores.