Pedestrian safety in rural areas

Who doesn't love a walk in the country?

Walking for both health and pleasure is enjoying a resurgence in popularity all over the country as people strive to live better lives and get more physically fit. Unfortunately, however, pedestrians in rural areas may be at an increased risk of injuries from cars and other vehicles on the roads around them. More than half of the nation's traffic fatalities as a whole happen in rural areas -- including 28 percent of pedestrian deaths.

In general, rural areas pose unique challenges to pedestrians because vehicles are often traveling quickly along the roads, there are few sidewalks, visibility may be poor due to hills or vegetation and there are few streetlights.

How can you stay safe if you plan to walk in a rural area? According to the Department of Transportation, you should follow these rules:

1. Walk facing traffic. Many people make the mistake of walking with their back toward oncoming traffic. That affords them no opportunity to move out of the way if a vehicle is too close.

2. Stay alert. Don't walk with headphones in your ears or with your eyes focused on your phone.

3. Plan your route carefully. If you're walking purely for pleasure, consider limiting your walk to the park system, where you can avoid cars and other vehicles altogether. If that isn't possible, look for a route that allows you to stay off the road as much as possible.

4. Cross only in open areas. The odds that you'll find a crosswalk are slim, so look for an area that's clearly visible to oncoming cars before you attempt to cross any rural road.

5. Don't drink and walk. Alcohol consumption by pedestrians can be problematic. Drinking alcohol before you walk makes you less alert, less nimble and more likely to end up in an accident.

6. Stay behind guardrails when possible. Some rural roads don't have any guardrails to use -- but when they're there, they provide a small measure of protection from passing cars, so use them.

If you are in an accident with a car or truck, it may be wise to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Investigations into rural accidents can be complex, and it helps to get started on them right away.

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