Friday, August 28, 2009

Stroller Safety

Two days ago our city was witness to a tragedy. A woman walking with her two-year-old daughter in a stroller was struck by a turning truck and the little girl was killed. The most recent details to the story can be found here. I can not imagine the grief that this mother is feeling as she recovers from her injuries in hospital and according to his lawyer the truck driver is distraught and feels terrible. And of course he should.
This story compelled me to write about the importance of stroller safety when out walking. I sometimes think that far too many pedestrians are unaware of how easy it is for a driver to hit us and why we must be vigilant at all times.
Before I had my son and I took my daily commute to work, which included walking a few blocks to transit and then again a few blocks to my workplace, I was reminded time and time again that drivers are distracted and have limited visibility for pedestrians. This led me to develop a system that kept me from being hit several times and I have enhanced it even more now that I walk with a stroller.
-First of all never wear ipods or earphones of any kind while walking with a stroller. You need to be able to hear. All of your senses should be alert. Try to stay in the moment as much as possible and use your instincts to keep you and your precious cargo safe.
-At crosswalks and stop signs always make eye contact with the driver of the car. Make sure that they know that you are there, that you are crossing and make sure that they acknowledge that you have the right of way. Never assume that they see you. They often do not. Especially if the visibility is bad due to weather or low light.
-In this unfortunate case there was apparently a construction company that had blocked off the sidewalk and the woman was using the roadway. On a quiet suburb street that may be fine, but if you are in a urban environment with heavy traffic consider turning back and finding another route. It will add time but wouldn't you rather arrive at where you are going? Assess the risk but often times it is probably too high of a price to pay.
-When you are waiting for a light to change etc. keep the stroller as far back from the curb as possible. This may be challenging on crowded city streets but other pedestrians are usually mindful of parents with children.
-When crossing the road at a blind corner or curve I always back onto the street so that I am on the road first. I am taller, easier to see and if someone was coming I could just jump back on to the sidewalk.
-Know your routes. I ran into this problem recently when I went to the downtown core. I had not been to this particular area in a year or so and it was totally changed with construction everywhere. I ended up having to carry the stroller over stairways and was walking by loud jackhammers. The following week when I had to return to the same place I took a different route.
-Don't try to multitask. This links back to the first point but don't try and chat on the cellphone, drink a coffee, push the stroller and carry shopping bags. I know it's hard not to try, we've all done it but it is so risky. If you drop something in the middle of the crosswalk how will you pick it up? Keep it simple, stay safe.
-Equip you stroller with reflective devices. Our stroller brand has reflective strips all along it but those bike lights that flash or bike reflectors are a great idea. Getting the attention of drivers is key.
-Try to take your walks at lower traffic times in the day. Rush hour means tired, anxious and often angry drivers are out there and are just trying to get home. Schedule your walks for later morning or early afternoon. Not only is it more safe in terms of avoiding being hit by a car it is also less car fumes for you and your child to breathe.
Horrible accidents like these can not always be avoided. Sometimes we check all the ticks but we still get hurt. The best we can do for our kids is to be as safe as possible, but in the end we can't avoid getting out there and enjoying the world. I try and take nothing for granted as a pedestrian and I also try to be a very alert and present driver, so that I am not in danger and so that I don't put anyone else in danger either.

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