Houston Pedestrian Traffic Is Up Due to COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order
May 5, 2020
Earlier this month, Governor Abbott lifted many of the restrictions that were a part of the stay-at-home order he previously implemented to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. During the time that the stay-at-home order was in effect, most Texans were required to stay indoors, unless they were leaving to conduct essential business. Even those who were leaving the house were encouraged to avoid public transportation, as experts believe that being in such close proximity with others would likely result in COVID-19 spreading even more rapidly. Needless to say, this resulted in a drastic increase in the amount of pedestrian traffic across the state.
While Governor Abbot lifted some of the stay-at-home restrictions, Houston Judge Lina Hidalgo signed a new stay at home order just wo days later. Under Judge Hidalgo’s order, non-essential businesses are to remain closed until May 20, 2020. The Judge explained that Texans “need to remain vigilant for a phased reopening to work.” Regardless of whether businesses are able to reopen or not, many Harris County residents will still be hesitant to ride on public transportation. For those who have cars, this may be a minor inconvenience. However, for residents without access to a vehicle, this may mean that walking is their best option.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with walking as a means of transportation. However, pedestrians face significant risks when navigating Houston streets, especially during a time when many motorists may feel like they have the road to themselves. Indeed, cities across the country have noticed an uptick in the number of speeding tickets issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While all Texas drivers have an obligation to drive safely and follow all traffic laws, Houston pedestrians should take special precaution. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, over 6,200 pedestrians are killed each year in traffic accidents. This amounts to about one pedestrian being killed every 88 minutes.
Below are a few tips pedestrians can take to ensure safe travels:
- Be predictable – Motorists assume that pedestrians will follow the rules of the road and cross at designated crosswalks. Pedestrians who surprise a motorist by crossing without warning may leave the driver with little time to react. If a crosswalk is not available, pedestrians should cross at well-lit intersections and make sure that the coast is clear before entering the road.
- Use the sidewalks – Pedestrians should use sidewalks if they are available, even if the sidewalk is on an inconvenient side of the street. If there are no sidewalks available, pedestrians should walk to the far-right side of the road, trying to stay as far away from traffic as possible.
- Stay alert – While it is tempting to listen to music, make a phone call or text while walking, these activities take a pedestrian’s attention away from the flow of traffic, increasing the chance that they will not notice an approaching vehicle.
- Do not assume – Pedestrians should never assume that a driver sees them. Even if a driver begins to slow down, pedestrians should wait until the driver make eye contact with them before crossing.
- Be visible – Motorists have an easier time seeing pedestrians that wear brightly colored clothing. When walking at night, pedestrians should consider walking with a flashlight (or the flashlight from their phone).
- Watch out for driveways – A large percentage of Texas pedestrian accidents occur around driveways and near the entrances to parking lots. Pedestrians should proceed with caution whenever they are crossing a driveway or parking lot entrance.
Of course, some Texas pedestrian accidents are unavoidable. As noted above, the ultimate duty to prevent an accident rests with motorists. When a pedestrian is struck by a car or truck, they may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Texas personal injury lawsuit.