Keeping Pedestrians Safe

“Look the driver in the eye!”

That’s what I taught my three sons to do when they were learning to cross the street.

Yes, cross at a marked crosswalk.  Yes, wait for the light to change.  No, don’t assume the drivers are going to obey the signals.  Look them in the eye to make sure they see you and are really going to stop.

New statistics from the City of Edmonton’s Office of Traffic Safety prove that mother knows best: Of the 298 collisions that involved pedestrians in 2013, 192 or 60.6% happened when pedestrians had the right of way.

That means those pedestrians were at an intersection with a full traffic signal, a pedestrian-activated crossing signal, an amber flashing light, in a marked pedestrian crosswalk or at an unmarked crosswalk.

Motor Vehicle Collisions 2013 Annual Report


Even this wise old Mom finds those numbers shocking.

Sadly, a marked crosswalk can’t keep pedestrians safe if drivers aren’t paying attention.  Having the right of way is no protection.  And there’s no sense being “right” when your opponent is 1500 kilograms of steel and glass.  You are not going to win that argument.  Those 298 pedestrian-vehicle collisions in 2013 took the lives of six Edmontonians and injured 311 people.

The statistics show that this is actually the most dangerous time of the year for pedestrians on Edmonton streets.  Forty-five of the 298 collisions happened in September last year.  By comparison, there were only 12 collisions between vehicles and pedestrians in April.  September, October and Nov ember combined account for 34 percent of all pedestrian collisions for the year.

TE Blog Pedestrian safety 1 (1) (1)-2

It’s a combination of driver and pedestrian behaviour, road conditions, and the changing seasons:

  • We’re all getting back into our routines after the summer break, and we may not be allowing enough time to get where we’re going.  Distracted, rushing drivers are dangerous drivers.  Same goes for pedestrians
  • The weather can be a factor, especially the first couple of snowfalls of the year.  Snow decreases visibility and makes stopping distances longer
  • Shorter days, lower angle sunrises and sunsets, longer shadows and longer twilight periods mean pedestrians aren’t as visible at this time of year

Now that my boys are older and learning to drive, I think it’s time for some new lessons from Mom about how to watch out for pedestrians.  I’m getting tips from the City’s Heads Up campaign for both pedestrians and drivers.

I’ll remind them to pay attention behind the wheel — no checking their cell phones, even at intersections.  Watch out for other cars slowing down, because they may see a pedestrian that you don’t see yet.  Be aware of pedestrians who may be pushing the limits of their “right of way” by walking before or after their walk signal.

And most importantly, look the pedestrians in the eye!


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About the Author
Gillian Rutherford
Gillian Rutherford is a communications advisor for the Transportation department.
  1. Gary Duguay
    5 years ago

    even looking a driver right in the eye is no guarantee that you are safe as a pedestrian. I made eye contact an a driver was looking right at me when he put me up on the hood of his car. His reaction was to curse me for not being careful until another driver pointed out to him that I was walking on a wallight and he was the one who was in the wrong.

  2. Phil
    5 years ago

    It would be great to see EPS put as much effort into ticketing drivers that don’t stop for pedestrians, as the effort they seem to put into ticketing jaywalkers.

  3. Wade
    5 years ago

    I find this article very frustrating; it’s victim blaming. While EPS is out giving jaywalking tickets left, right, and centre, I’ve never seen a single ticket be handed out to a car that fails to stop when the pedestrian has the right of way. Instead of (or at least in addition to) educating people to be wary of cars, start punishing those that don’t stop.

  4. Varina
    5 years ago

    I agree with Wade, I expected something more enlightened from this blog. When 6 out of 10 accidents occur while pedestrians are legally crossing the road, telling them to be more careful is both insulting and wildly inadequate. This whole issue needs to be addressed in a systemic way, and yes, we need more enforcement.


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