Everybody knows the importance of defensive driving. But did you know those same principles can help keep you safe when you leave your car and go for a walk?

Walking is a great way to get exercise. Walking for just 30 minutes a day in 10-minute increments can reduce heart disease risk by as much as 40 percent. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and Canada and the leading cause of death among Laborers. Walking also reduces risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancers of the breast and colon, eases depression, wards off osteoporosis and helps with weight loss. It is one of the most effective, easiest and least expensive types of exercise around.

However, walking can also be dangerous, especially on or alongside a road. Every day, traffic-related injuries send more than 460 pedestrians to emergency rooms. Every two hours, at least one pedestrian dies from injuries related to a traffic crash. You can reduce your risk for being among these statistics by walking defensively.

Defensive walking

Like defensive driving, defensive walking takes into account time of day, weather and road conditions – curves, lack of shoulders, tree overgrowth, construction work – that can hinder driver visibility. It also involves awareness of driver behaviors that can make it hazardous for a walker: driving above posted speed limits, driving aggressively, ignoring traffic signs and running red lights.

Whether you are walking for fitness or just walking across the street to your jobsite, always walk defensively:

  • Cross the street at a designated crosswalk.
  • Be careful at intersections where drivers may fail to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians while turning onto another street.
  • Walk on a sidewalk when you have that choice.
  • If you must walk in the street, always walk facing traffic.
  • Increase your visibility by wearing bright and retro-reflective clothing. At night, add the use of a flashlight.

Make it a habit to be a defensive walker and enjoy the benefits of taking a walk without taking your life in your hands.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]