Walking is an excellent form of exercise as well as an ideal form of recreation, and San Francisco is especially suited to walkers. While our temperate climate and vibrant neighborhoods, shopping, and eateries which are all in close proximity make walking the bay area particularly appealing, the number of cars and traffic in the city on any given day presents hazards which all walkers should be aware. Pedestrian accidents can result in severe, disabling injuries, and pedestrian fatalities are unfortunately common. Protect yourself while out walking by being armed with the facts and knowing the dangers present to walkers, as well as how you can minimize those dangers.
Pedestrian Accidents and Injuries
According to a report on pedestrian injuries by the San Francisco Department of Health (DOH), pedestrian accident rates are 30 percent higher than those throughout other areas of the United States. Walking is four times more dangerous than driving in San Francisco, and more than 100 people in our area are killed or seriously injured in these types of accidents each year. The DOH states that automobiles are a contributing factor in the majority of pedestrian accidents, and speeding cars are a particular threat to walkers, both in terms of the frequency of these accidents as well as the potentially for serious, life threatening injuries. With little to protect them, pedestrians are at an increased likelihood to sustain the following types of injuries:
- Head and neck injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Broken bones and fractures;
- Cuts, abrasions, and lacerations; and/or
- Damage to internal organs due to crushing injuries.
While pedestrians face increased danger as the result of heightened traffic and increasing numbers of drivers, there are laws that can help to increase pedestrian safety. The majority of pedestrian accidents occur when crossing busy streets and intersections, and to increase pedestrian safety the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) advises all walkers and drivers to be aware of the crosswalk laws, which are listed under Section 21950 of the California Vehicle Code. In addition, the SFMTA advises pedestrians to ensure their own safety by following these tips;
- Always use a crosswalk when crossing intersections;
- Use sidewalks. If no sidewalk is available, then it is best to walk facing traffic;
- Always make eye contact with drivers before entering the street, and look right, then left, the right again to ensure there is no oncoming traffic;
- Wear bright colored clothing to increase your visibility while out walking;
- Avoid using ear buds while out walking, as this could prevent you from hearing traffic signal that could alert you to danger; and
- If you are out drinking, do not walk home. Take a cab instead.
For information on walking trips and trails throughout the Bay area, check out the SFMTA’s