Review the Facts

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The following facts provide a snapshot of key information every law enforcement officer should know. For more detailed information regarding each fact, click on the associated links below.

Fact #1: Walking and biking to school has declined as parents safety concerns have increased.

Fact #2: Speed matters: Crashes at speeds of 30 mph are eight times more likely to kill the pedestrian than crashes at speeds of 20 mph.

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Fact #3: Many drivers do not know they must yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.

Diagram asks how many crosswalks are pictured? Diagram illustrates that there are 5 crosswalks -- 1 marked and 4 unmarked

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Fact #4: The average citizen does not understand the phases of a pedestrian signal.

Research has shown that pedestrians do not fully understand the meanings associated with the three phases of a pedestrian signal:

The phase that is most misunderstood is the flashing DONT WALK. Many pedestrians incorrectly interpret the flashing DON'T WALK to mean either:

Both of these interpretations are wrong.

(For a live demonstration of actual signal operation view this webpage:

The flashing DON"T WALK phase is a clearance interval. Law enforcement officers can assist in educating the public regarding the correct meaning of the signal. The DON'T WALK signal means:

(For a live demonstration of actual signal operation view this webpage:

Law enforcement can help better educate the public regarding the meaning of pedestrian signals and encourage the public to make safer decisions regarding when to cross the street.

One recent innovation that is helping pedestrians better understand walk phases is the installation of countdown pedestrians signals. These signals include the traditional signal head, as well as a number display, programmed to countdown the number of seconds a pedestrian has remaining to cross the street before a green signal is given to the cross traffic.

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Fact #5: Safe crossing behavior at intersections is a critical skill for pedestrian safety.

Many parents find that crossing at mid-block locations seem simpler, safer and more direct than crossing at an intersection. This creates a challenge for law enforcement officers and other traffic safety educators who try to teach children to cross at intersections and to encourage them to always do so. Understanding some of the typical reasons people cross at midblock locations can help you better encourage parents to curb this behavior for the sake of child safety and education.

The Challenges of Crossing at Intersections:

Reinforce Parental Involvement:

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Fact #6: Bicyclists riding in the roadway must ride in the direction of traffic — it's the law.

In all 50 States, a bicycle in the roadway is considered a vehicle or is afforded the same rights and responsibilities as a vehicle. As a vehicle, bicycles should always travel with the flow of vehicular traffic. Many uninformed bicyclists believe that they are safer riding against traffic on the left hand side of the roadway, because they can see oncoming motorists and will be able to take evasive action if needed to avoid a collision. Riding in the same direction of traffic, however, makes bicyclists more visible to other drivers and makes their movements more predictable. This increases the safety of both bicyclists and motorists.

Lack of Safety in Wrong-Way Riding

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Fact #7: Use of sufficient lighting and/or reflective materials by pedestrians and bicyclists will enhance their visibility.

Fourteen percent of children and twenty-four percent of adults hit by cars when riding bicycles were riding in dark, dawn, or dusk conditions.[17]

Children walking or bicycling to school during fall, winter and early spring months, are at increased risk due to lower visibility during pre-dawn (arrival hours) and late afternoon (departure hours). Studies have shown that wearing light colored clothing (white or yellow) is not sufficient to increase conspicuity in the street environment. Use of bright colored clothing, active lighting, and reflective equipment and materials of sufficient surface area are critical to enhance their visibility.

While walking and riding at nighttime is discouraged for children, if they must do so, parents need to be taught how to enhance the safety of their children. Parents should:

Most States require a white front light and red rear reflector when bicycling at night.

Note: red flashing lights put on the back of a bicycle, helmet, or backpack seem to be enhance visibility more than a steady light.

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Fact #8: Bicycling on the sidewalk can cause safety problems at driveways and intersections.

Children's ability to bicycle safely in traffic will grow and change as they get older, and as they become more skilled and learn more about safe interaction in traffic. Most children under age 10 are not ready to ride in traffic and are encouraged to use the sidewalk or low volume residential streets with caution.

Many States have more specific bicycling laws in jurisdictions, including but not limited to unlawful sidewalk riding in downtown areas, or unlawful riding on sidewalks for bicyclists over a certain age. In general, when teaching bicycle safety, the following guidelines are recommended:

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Fact #9: Wearing a properly fitted bicycle helmet has been proven effective in preventing head injuries and saving lives when crashes occur.

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