Proceed With Caution by Jai Batth

The following student essay was submitted as an entry in our scholarship essay contest.  We will be announcing a winner next week, so please check back on Friday!

Proceed With Caution

by Jai Batth
University of Washington-Bothell

Most people would agree that throwing yourself in front of a charging Rhinoceros would be a fatal mistake. Yet people seemingly without precaution risk the same scenario when crossing busy streets. 4,432 pedestrians were killed in automobile related accidents in 2011 (NHTSA). This is an appalling statistic in a country where so many precautions are already in place to protect pedestrians.

The first and most important precaution any pedestrian can take is to take their safety in their own hands. Zeeger and Bushell’s study shows that a majority of accidents take place in signalized intersection (intersections with lights), which could be prevented simply by pedestrians waiting for the appropriate signals to travel across the road (Zeeger & Bushell, 2012). All pedestrians should operate under the belief that the approaching vehicles have not seen them and therefore should not attempt to cross until the road is clear, or the proper signal is given that it is safe to cross. Along with this increased visibility tools can be placed along the road to draw attention to pedestrians and therefore make it less likely for a motorist to miss the pedestrian especially in low visibility conditions. For example, in Brier where I live cross walks on high traffic roads have been lit up with flashing yellow lights that can be activated when someone needs to cross the road, therefore allowing motorists to easily tell that someone is crossing and stop in a safe and timely manner.

The implementation of traffic control and pedestrian safety treatments is also crucial in saving thousands of lives a year. These include extensive guardrails and barriers as well as designated bike lanes and side walks where pedestrians can safely walk. It is very common for large stretches of road not to have any sidewalk forcing pedestrians to walk on the edge of the road, which honestly is asking for trouble when you put a human being in such close proximity to high velocity objects (ie: cars). By funding preventative building efforts it would maximize pedestrian safety and motorist aid while minimizing pointless risks that pedestrians are currently subjected to.

Law enforcement already plays a crucial role on road safety for not only pedestrians but also motorists, but increased efforts can be taken in order to protect non-motorists. Widespread use of camera enforced red lights and speeding zones would have many benefits. Not only would it make motorists safer by reducing risky behavior but it would also protect pedestrians. Pedestrian fatalities increase in high traffic areas, and show a directly proportional increase relating to vehicle speed. Using cameras to enforce stop signals and speed could help eliminate some of these casualties because people would be less inclined to speed or go through red lights due to the hefty fines that they would face. Furthermore the revenue generated from these traffic infractions could be used on road safety improvement. It would have a dual purpose of not only reduce current fatalities but also improve safety for future generations.

In a national study it was found that about 15% of all pedestrian fatalities involve either children or senior citizens (Zeeger & Bushell, 2012). Improving transportation to and from school as well as making routes near schools safer could reduce casualties. The U.S government provides $612 million a year nationally for transportation to school districts, unfortunately this figure only fills the needs of about 7% of elementary and middle schools (Zeeger & Bushell, 2012). This lack of funding is directly responsible for the high risk children face, and through proper funding these kids could be protected.

Overall the problem of pedestrian fatalities is a major one and will continue to grow worse as America’s infrastructure slowly crumbles and the number of motorists increases. This is especially disturbing since income trends play a huge role as minority and low income individuals are more at risk since higher percentages of those two groups cannot afford to drive and therefore must walk. The steps above are simply a starting point, to make our roads safer a well funded and multi-faceted effort would have to enacted and enforced by all levels of government.


“Pedestrians.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.
Zegeer, Charles V., and Max Bushell. “Pedestrian crash trends and potential countermeasures from around the world.” Accident Analysis & Prevention 44.1 (2012): 3-11.