Pedestrian Safety in Pennsylvania


Like many of you, I spend a fair amount of time logging miles on my feet along local streets and well-traveled roadways. One of the main reasons I like to run very early in the morning (read: around sunrise) is because there are very few cars on the roads at that time. In my experience, traffic begins to pick up around 6:30 am and grows steadily in the following 30-60 minutes as people rush to work.

I have come within inches of being hit by a car on more than one occasion, a situation that scares the bejesus out of me each and every time. It also makes me angry. Not only at the drivers who are speeding because they left the house late, especially those who are doing everything in their car (applying makeup, texting, or speaking on the phone) except what they should be doing – watching the road.

I also get angry about our road situation and lack of sidewalks or right-of-ways along the streets, especially in the suburban areas. One particular road that I run on has it’s white line painted on the very edge of the macadam, directly abutting a home owner’s property. There is no road easement for me to run on. Each and every time I run my oh-so-familiar roads I wish for a day when all of our area roads have alternative transportation pathways alongside them for walkers, bikers and runners.

I am a huge proponent of wearing bright, standout colors when I run on the roads. In the early hours I wear a light belt or head lamp as well as flashing lights. I demand to be seen. And all I ask in return is for a little respect from automobiles. Most drivers do me that courtesy and even pull over into the other lane if they are able to do so. There is always that driver out there whose aim is to “teach me a lesson” and they swerve towards me. It actually happens more often than I’d like and always makes me lose a little bit of confidence in my fellow man.

Lastly, I get frustrated at the growing population in the area. Growing up in these parts, I remember as a child being able to safely ride my bike for miles along all of the local roads. I often rode from Macungie to Alburtis, looped through Lock Ridge Furnace and back home, an 8-10 mile bike ride. I was probably about 11 or 12 years old at the time. Doing so now, along the same roads, would be taking my life into my own hands. I’ll be clear on this, my children are forbidden to do this. No way!

Population growth is good, but our infrastructure wasn’t built to sustain this growing community. This is not an easy situation to remedy, doing so would cause a lot of headaches to landowners. So, we build bypasses, and that works, for now.

In this morning’s Morning Call an article was published by a local resident and runner, Michael Drabenstott, about Allentown’s West End district. In it, Michael mentioned how walkable his neighborhood is; he is able to walk to restaurants, theaters, salons, coffee shops, etc. The walkability rating for my neighborhood is 11/100 according to The website told me that “100% of Allentown residents have a higher Walk Score” than I do. I am car dependent. I live within 1-2 miles of so many conveniences (grocery stores, restaurants, banks, an amusement park, a museum, a city park, libraries and schools) but getting their on foot or by bike is dangerous. I really wish that local townships, municipalities, etc. would incorporate walkability factors into area planning when they grant permits to all of these companies to build more neighborhoods. There should be more pedestrian paths connecting each of these neighborhoods with each other rather than simply building them around said neighborhoods. Even connect these paths with existing sidewalks so that local residents can safely walk or ride their bike to the grocery store, drug store, or restaurant.

Hey, I can dream, right?

I’m including, below, text from Pennsylvania’s Pedestian Laws. It’s always good to be familiar with the laws that govern us as runners. I caution you that just because we may have the right of way, that doesn’t mean that drivers will always respect that fact. Always use caution when it comes to crossing intersections and running alongside busy streets.

Also, I found some Pedestrian Accident statistics that I felt worthwhile sharing with you.
(Please note that 2010 and 2011 national and Pennsylvania pedestrian accident statistics have not yet been released.)

2008 Pennsylvania Pedestrian Accident Statistics

  • In Pennsylvania in 2008 there were 4,589 pedestrians involved in traffic accidents, 142 (3 percent) of which were killed.
  • 80 of the 142 pedestrian deaths (56 percent) in 2008 occurred while the pedestrian was entering a crosswalk.
  • Pedestrian-related crashes represent 3.5 percent of the total reported traffic crashes in Pennsylvania; however, they account for 10 percent of all traffic crash deaths.
  • In 2008, male pedestrian deaths accounted for 69 percent of all pedestrian deaths in Pennsylvania.
  • 18 percent of pedestrians killed in Pennsylvania traffic accidents in 2008 were 75 or older.
  • Nearly 65 percent of all Pennsylvanian pedestrian fatalities in 2008 occurred in cities.
  • Younger pedestrians (age 19 and under) accounted for 36 percent of the pedestrian injuries in Pennsylvania in 2008.

Subchapter C: Rights and Duties of Pedestrians

Section 3544. Pedestrians walking along or on highway.
(a) Mandatory use of available sidewalk.—Where a sidewalk is provided and its use is practicable, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway.

(b) Absence of sidewalk.—Where a sidewalk is not available, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall walk only on a shoulder as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway.

(c) Absence of sidewalk and shoulder.—Where neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall walk as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway and, if on a two-way roadway, shall walk only on the left side of the roadway.

(d) Right-of-way to vehicles.—Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, any pedestrian upon a roadway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

Section 3545. Pedestrians soliciting rides or business.
No person shall:
(1) Stand on a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride.
(2) Stand on a roadway for the purpose of soliciting employment, business or contributions from the occupant of any vehicle.
(3) Stand on or in proximity to a highway for the purpose of soliciting the watching or guarding of any vehicle while parked or about to be parked on a street or highway.

Section 3546. Driving through or around safety zone.
(a) Through zones.—No vehicle shall at any time be driven through or within a safety zone.

(b) Around zones.—Traffic may move on either side of a safety zone unless prohibited from driving to the left of the zone by the installation of an official traffic-control device as provided in this title.

Section 3547. Right-of-way of pedestrians on sidewalks.
The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road or driveway.

Section 3548. Pedestrians to yield to authorized emergency vehicles.
(a) General rule.—Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirements of this title, or of a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal only, every pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to the authorized emergency vehicle.

(b) Exercise of care by driver.—This section does not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway nor from the duty to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.

PDF version of Pennsylvania’s Driver & Pedestrian Laws