AUSTIN (KXAN) — “Walking billboards” from the Texas Department of Transportation could be seen across Austin intersections this week, each sending a message to drivers and pedestrians to be careful while on the road.
Glynda Chu, a spokesperson for TxDOT, said the campaign aims to remind those on foot and behind the wheel about the importance of crossing roads safely, and driving cautiously when near pedestrians.
TxDOT said this awareness campaign coincides with the changing seasons as the days become shorter and the nights grow longer.
Chu said over the last year, the state has seen a 29% increase in the number of pedestrian-related crashes. She said this is a worrying trend that can be reduced with simple, everyday actions.
“As a pedestrian, make eye contact with those drivers. If you see them looking down at their phone you know they can’t see you. Put that phone away when you’re driving, no matter what we’re looking for pedestrians, looking for other drivers. Keep yourself and others as safe as possible,” Chu said.
Anna Bauereis lost her 14-year-old son Alexie to a distracted-driving crash a few years ago. She said her son was walking on a crosswalk when a speeding driving was on their cell phone.
Bauereis said she sees drivers making similar mistakes everyday that could lead to another loss for another family.
“They’ve stopped and they’ve picked up their cell phone, and they’re looking at it at a light and when it turns green they may not put it down,” Bauereis said.
TxDOT encourages everyone to follow these safety tips to prevent a deadly encounter:
- Stop and yield for pedestrians in crosswalks;
- When turning, yield the right of way to pedestrians;
- Be cautious when passing stopped buses or other vehicles that can block your view of pedestrians;
- Pay attention and put your phone away so you’re prepared if pedestrians enter your path; and,
- 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 traffic will stop for you;
- Follow all traffic and crosswalk signals;
- When walking, put away electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road; and,
- Stay visible. Wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.