Enjoying the Outdoors Safely

While the past several months have thrust upon us many challenges, frustrations, and disappointments, there have also been a few positive changes.  Some of us are getting more sleep, enjoying more exercise, or spending more time with family. As many of us have been working from home, we are turning to walking and bike riding as ways to get out of the house and improve our health.  

Just being outside can help reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of a variety of diseases, and improve mental health (New York Times). When we add some exercise in the mix, things only get better. However, there are some safety factors that we need to consider.  

The fatality rate for pedestrians and cyclists has been steadily rising over the last several decades. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 6,590 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2019.  While the fatality rate of cyclists is lower, at 857 in 2018, it is still an unfortunately high number (New York Times).  

What are some of the factors contributing to these numbers?  It’s no surprise that distracted driving plays a role. While it is illegal to text or talk on a hand-held phone in many states, not all drivers follow the laws, and hands-free phones can still compromise a driver’s ability to focus on the road. Another factor is the vehicles themselves. Increasingly, Americans favor SUVs and light trucks over cars.  The greater mass of these vehicles along with the fact that they sit higher makes it more likely that the vehicle will smash directly into a cyclist or pedestrian rather than pushing the victim up onto the hood of the car (USA Today).  

While these facts should give us pause, fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid becoming part of the statistics.  

  • Wear a helmet designed for cycling.  Be sure it has a safety certification sticker and is properly fitted for you.  A helmet that does not fit you or is not properly adjusted will not fully protect you.  Consider purchasing one at a local bike shop where staff can help you find the right fit and adjustment.  
  • Ride with the flow of traffic, not against it, and follow the rules of the road. While some people like to ride into traffic because they can see oncoming cars, in reality, this is both more dangerous than riding with the flow of traffic, and it is not legal.
  • Be sure your bike is in good working order before you ride, especially your brakes.
  • Whether you are walking or biking, wear clothes that make you clearly visible to drivers; on the bike, consider attaching flashing reflectors even during daylight. If you walk at night or early in the morning, consider wearing a reflective vest over your clothing.
  • Anticipate that drivers might not see you and be ready to act accordingly. A jump into a ditch or onto a sidewalk is clearly better than an encounter with any automobile when you consider that even lighter coupes weigh significantly north of two thousand pounds. 

Enjoy the satisfaction of connecting with your community and the outdoors by getting out for a walk or a bike ride. Waitte’s Insurance Agency is here for you with tips on how to get the most out of opportunities while still staying safe. Stop in on your next walk or bike ride, or give us a call to talk about your unique insurance needs.  

 

For further information, visit the following publication:

Governors Highway Safety Association
Bike Safety Tips
New York Times Health Article
New York Times Pedestrians and Cyclists Article
Bicycle Safety NHTSA