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Four safe winter walking tips for parents and teens

We have all been told to look both ways before crossing the street, but with winter weather approaching, it may not be that simple. Snow drifts and parked cars can block views for both drivers and pedestrians. Snowy and slushy roads can make it harder for drivers to stop. Longer periods of darkness reduce visibility for drivers and pedestrians alike.

All of these factors make for important reminders of pedestrian safety. Below are four safe winter walking tips from SafeKids.org. Parents should read these tips and share them with teens and children who may walk on their own through the winter months.

1. Put away distractions

Drivers on the road are expected to keep themselves free from distraction including cell phones. Pedestrians, too, should put away the phone while walking across the street. This precaution should include removing headphones while listening to music or playing a game.

Make eye contact with drivers before you cross the street and continue to look both ways as you cross the street. Allowing yourself full awareness of the situation will help you react in time to unexpected events.

2. Only use marked crosswalks

Drivers use their marked lanes - pedestrians should too. Crosswalks are clearly marked with a lowered curb and white diagonal lines. Pedestrians have the right-of-way in crosswalks. Drivers often see warning signs of a crosswalk ahead and are ready to stop for a pedestrian.

It's easy to want to cross the street outside of marked crosswalks for convenience, but this is not a safe idea. Crossing the street elsewhere can create a hazard for drivers who may not be prepared to stop for you.

3. If no sidewalk, walk close to curb facing traffic

If there is no sidewalk on the street you are walking, walk facing traffic but stay as close to the curb as possible. Doing this will allow you to see drivers and for drivers to see you.

Although it is recommended to walk on the left side, sometimes it is not always possible. Walk on whichever side of the road gives you maximum visibility and space away from cars.

4. Carry a flashlight and wear bright clothing

According to SafeKids.org, 70 percent of accidents involving a pedestrian occur between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. When walking after dark, carry a moderately bright flashlight. Point the beam ahead of you, but keep the light on the ground so that you do not shine it in the face of drivers.

Winter clothing does not always come in bright colors, but wearing a reflective vest can significantly increase your visibility as a pedestrian. Neon colored hat and gloves can be worn as an alternative to a vest.

We hope you and your family remain out of harm's way. Better awareness of winter weather hazards can make the roads safer for drivers and pedestrians alike.

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