Pedestrian Safety LawsInjury Prevention

Slow Down! New Laws Take Effect

By: Amy Watkins, MPH

October is Pedestrian Safety Month. With the new laws taking effect this month, pedestrian and bicycle safety has been the talk of the town. And for good reason. In Connecticut, around 60 pedestrians are killed each year in crashes with vehicles. That’s more than one person a week! Last year, victims ranged in ages from 2 to 85, which reminds us it’s never too early (or late!) to talk about being safe on the road.

The New Laws

Connecticut enacted important new laws to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. Effective October 1, the new laws are an effort to make crossing and riding along the street safer for everyone.

The new crosswalk law applies to intersections that are “uncontrolled,” meaning there is no stop light or sign. Previously, a person had to step into the crosswalk for a car to have to yield. Now, you can stand on the curb and signal your intent to cross. A wave or other gesture, while not required, is a way to improve communication between driver and pedestrian. It is still important to make sure the oncoming driver sees you and is stopping before crossing the road.

Another new law focuses on “dooring.” This means a driver or passenger cannot open a vehicle door in a way that hits or gets in the way of a pedestrian or bicyclist. Just like you would look for oncoming cars before you open your car door, you must look for other road users. With this law, Connecticut joins 40 other states in protecting bicyclists and pedestrians from the danger of a suddenly opened car door.

Violation of these rules can result in a fine. For more information about the new laws, click here.

Have a Conversation

Talk with your children about how to be safe while walking and bicycling. Remind them that drivers may not see them, so they should only cross when they are sure all cars have stopped. Use sidewalks whenever possible, and walk facing traffic if there is no sidewalk, so you can see what’s coming. Children are particularly vulnerable in driveways and parking lots, including busy school drop-off areas with lots of moving vehicles. Teach them not to dart between cars and to look for backing red lights. As a driver, be extra cautious in these areas. Children can be hard to see, especially when you’re driving a large SUV. You can find more tips here.

Teens are vulnerable as both drivers and pedestrians. Teens are often out after sunset or in the early morning getting to school, so make sure they are visible to drivers. Bright clothes, lights, and reflectors can be used both while walking and bicycling. To keep them safe behind the wheel, learn about and abide by the graduated driver’s license rules. These rules protect vehicle occupants, but also can help prevent a teen from being the driver in a fatal crash with a pedestrian, which sadly has happened.

Most importantly, we all have the responsibility to always drive with respect for others on the road. This means slowing down, not being distracted or impaired, and giving pedestrians and bicyclists the space they need. When we treat everyone on the road as our neighbors and friends, the entire community benefits, and everyone gets home safe to their family.

Amy Watkins, MPH, is the director of Safe Kids Connecticut, which is a program of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center.

To sign up for E-Updates from Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, click here.

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