Walking billboards

Texas Department of Transportation employees model wearable “walking billboards” that are expected to be put into use soon.

The Texas Department of Transportation is using a centuries-old practice to carry its message urging people driving and pedestrians to watch out for each other as pedestrian deaths continue to rise.

As part of the recently launched “Be Safe. Drive Smart” pedestrian safety campaign, TxDOT unveiled “walking billboards” — sandwich boards worn by TxDOT’s street teams — to remind drivers and pedestrians why it’s essential to follow the rules of the road.

Over the next few weeks, these highly visible “walking billboards” will appear in high pedestrian traffic areas in cities across the state.

The campaign also includes more modern advertising avenues such as television, radio, billboards and digital advertising.

In 2021, 5,366 traffic crashes involving pedestrians occurred in Texas. As a result, 841 people were killed, a 15% increase in pedestrian fatalities over the previous year. Another 1,470 people were seriously injured.

According to TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams, only 1% of traffic crashes in Texas involve pedestrians. Yet, pedestrians account for 19% of all roadway deaths.

“That’s because pedestrians lack the protective equipment — airbags, seat belts and bumpers — common to vehicles,” Williams said. “To keep our most vulnerable road users safe, we urge motorists to always be on the lookout for people walking. Pedestrians also have the responsibility to be aware of their surroundings and follow the rules of the road.”

Crash reports from law enforcement indicate the leading factors of pedestrian-related traffic crashes: pedestrians failing to yield the right of way to vehicles, driver inattention, motorists failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians, failure to control speed and drivers or pedestrians being under the influence of alcohol.

TxDOT offers these safety reminders to prevent a deadly encounter:

For drivers:

• Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.

• When turning, yield the right of way to pedestrians. Be cautious when passing stopped buses or other vehicles.

• Pay attention and put your phone away, so you’re always prepared if pedestrians enter your path.

• Follow the posted speed limit and drive to conditions.

For people walking:

• Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks. Look left, right, then left again before crossing.

• Make eye contact with drivers before crossing. Don’t assume drivers see you.

• Follow all traffic and crosswalk signals.

• Use the sidewalk. If there isn’t one, walk on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.

• When walking, put away electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.

• Wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.

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