Think Like a Pedestrian - National Safety Council

Think Like a Pedestrian

Help your teen keep pedestrians safe.

May 13, 2020

Once your teen starts to drive, it can be easy for him or her to forget what it’s like to be a pedestrian.

Though it might seem harmless, this way of thinking can create risks. According to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. have grown sharply in recent years, and are now at a 30-year high. As a new driver, your teen can make a big difference by keeping pedestrians in mind behind the wheel.

Here are some tips to help your teen think like a pedestrian and do his or her part to protect other road users.

Expect pedestrians

Many roads and communities are not designed with pedestrians in mind, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teach your teen to always keep an eye out for runners, walkers and other pedestrians, even on roads where they are not expected.

This means going slow around curves, always signaling for turns, and being especially cautious in dark conditions or poor weather. Most pedestrians are killed at night outside of intersections, so your teen should never assume a road is clear without double-checking it.

Communicate clearly

When your teen does spot pedestrians, he or she needs to remember that not everyone on the read is a mind reader. Picture a pedestrian trying to cross a road: the person takes a step, stops; a driver accelerates for a moment, stops; the process repeats itself until everyone is frustrated. The more frustrating this situation is, the more dangerous it becomes. Clear communication, however, can avoid many of these problems.

Teach your teen to always signal for every turn, merge and lane change, and to “connect” with pedestrians whenever possible. This can mean making eye contact with them so they know that your teen sees them, and putting a hand up to signal that they can cross safely while your teen waits. The goal is to avoid confusion however possible, even if it means your teen has to wait a few extra seconds.

Empathize with pedestrians

Though it can be frustrating to wait for pedestrians to cross the road, your teen has to remember that he or she is often in a more comfortable position. Air conditioning and heating systems (even heated seats) make driving in bad weather tolerable. Pedestrians in these same conditions, however, are miserable.

Whenever your teen is annoyed by pedestrians, ask him or her to imagine if the roles were reversed. How would your teen feel getting honked at in the pouring rain? Or trying to guess if a driver sees him or her in the middle of a snowstorm? While these situations might frustrate drivers, they can be terrifying for pedestrians.

This doesn’t mean your teen needs to get out and escort pedestrians across the street, but the more he or she remembers to think like one, the safer all road users will be.