The issue of pedestrian safety has special significance here at The Beard Law Firm. Among our ranks we have a couple of seasoned runners who, between the two of them, have completed 7 full marathons and 22 half marathons. No matter the weather, most days of the week they’re up before the sun, shoes pounding on the pavement, flashlights guiding their path. We want to share some of the laws that have been put in place to protect not only our two runners, but all pedestrians.

According to Illinois law, pedestrians should always use sidewalks where they are available. When no sidewalk is available, those traveling on foot should use the shoulder, keep to the left, and move against traffic (625 ILCS 5/11-1007). This helps both the pedestrian and the driver to be aware of each other’s approach, allowing the pedestrian to move farther to the edge of the shoulder and the vehicle to move closer to the center line, providing a wider berth for passing.

Drivers should always keep their eyes out for pedestrians using the side of the road. The law requires that drivers pass individuals with a distance of no less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the person (625 ILCS 5/11-703). If a vehicle comes upon a pedestrian in a section of the road where it is impossible to leave a 3 foot gap, the vehicle should reduce speed and wait until it becomes safe to pass. It’s also important for drivers to turn on their headlights any time there is limited visibility, especially at dawn/dusk and during inclement weather. In fact, it is against the law to drive with your windshield wipers on and your headlights off (625 ILCS 5/12-201).

Our own Beard Law Firm runners have brainstormed some additional safety tips that both pedestrians and drivers can follow to avoid an accident, as well as some actions which are simply courteous to pedestrians and runners who share the road.

What can I do as a driver to help pedestrians stay safe?

1. Slow down in inclement weather –

During a snowy nine mile run this past weekend, we were repeatedly doused with tidal waves of cold slush as car after car whizzed past. In very wet conditions, cars flying through standing water can drench pedestrians on the sidewalk. Slowing down not only minimizes your risk of hydroplaning, but will also help keep pedestrians safe and dry.

2. Follow the law, and then some –

Give pedestrians space. As mentioned above, the law requires a 3 foot passing space, but runners who spend a lot of time on the shoulders of roadways won’t complain about an extra few feet. Of course, you should never swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid a pedestrian, but when visibility and traffic permits, giving more space to the pedestrian is greatly appreciated (and it’s the best indication that you see us).

3. Check for pedestrians before turning –

Pedestrians traveling on the shoulder of the road are easily hidden behind trees, buildings, or other objects.

4. Remember your manners –

Whether it’s intended as a friendly greeting, or has some other meaning behind it, many drivers have beeped their horns or rolled down their windows and shouted things (for example, “Run, Forrest, run!”) at us. Just don’t. A friendly wave is an acceptable greeting, but other forms of “encouragement” are just startling and usually unwelcome.

What can I do as a pedestrian to stay safe and help drivers see me?

1. Wear brightly colored clothing –

As a pedestrian, the goal should be to stand out from your surroundings. Wearing neon colors and reflective gear can help drivers see you enough in advance to pass you safely.

2. Take lights with you if you’re out between sunset and sunrise –

If you’re going to be a pedestrian at night, make sure you have headlamps, flashlights, color-changing light up vests, etc. The more visible you are, the less likely of being struck by a vehicle. Having a light to shine on the road in front of you can also prevent you from tripping over fallen branches, or worse, stepping on a freshly deceased possum or other type of road kill.

3. Choose your path wisely –

When planning your route, consider opting for roads with sidewalks or less heavily trafficked roads with wide shoulders, especially if you will be out at night.

4. Look – and listen – for traffic –

We all like to crank the music up when our favorite song comes on the radio, and for runners, a great playlist can help lonely miles pass more quickly. But as pedestrians, if you must listen to music, it’s safest to keep the volume to a minimum or only use one ear bud. Here in hilly Southern Illinois, pedestrians are often more likely to hear an approaching vehicle before it’s visible.

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