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Walking (and driving) in a winter wonderland

I don’t know about you, but I have noticed many more people out and about as the coronavirus pandemic lingers. In my neighborhood, people are jogging, pushing baby carriages, chasing toddlers, walking dogs and riding bikes. On the surface, it’s good to see people getting exercise, fresh air and even socializing at safe distances.   

But an increase in foot traffic can create some concerns – especially during the winter when limited access to off-road walking paths, parks and clear sidewalks may bring more people directly into the road. In many parts of the country, winter brings slippery snow and ice “muck,” making it difficult to maintain footing. With fewer safe places to walk, people may be pushed closer to the cars and trucks on the road.

Drivers must remain extra cautious. In addition to being aware of pedestrians’ increased likelihood of slipping or falling, you’ll want to recognize other conditions that could affect visibility:

  • Reduced daylight hours can make pedestrians, especially those without reflective clothing, more difficult to see.
  • Failure to adequately clear all vehicle windows could put you in a “winter tunnel” with limits on side vision.

Consider that pedestrians and vehicles often cross paths in the zone I refer to as the “home turf.” After a day working then commuting on busy highways and main thoroughfares, we tend to relax when we hit that quiet “home zone” if you will: we are almost safely in the driveway, and we drop our guard. That’s when and where we likely will encounter folks enjoying a break from their COVID isolation.

So, to both drivers and walkers out on the streets: let’s try to be more cognizant of each other, and let’s better prepare for the walks and the drives.


Walkers, skaters, bikers: Pay attention to the traffic around you. As a kid, I was taught to “Walk Left/Ride Right” – my mother advised us to walk toward oncoming traffic and ride with traffic when using bikes. Walking with friends, children and even pets can put us in situations where we aren’t paying close attention to vehicles, especially when winter impacts road conditions and limits daylight.

Drivers: Be diligent in preparing your vehicle by clearing windows, maintaining window washer fluid and keeping your lights on. As you scan your mirrors and scan ahead to stay aware of oncoming vehicles, expand your scan field and mental focus to include watching for pedestrians and pets that may be sharing your road along with other vehicles.

If you are a homeowner or otherwise are responsible for maintaining walkways along the street, try to do so as best you can. Give the walkers a safer place to enjoy their stroll.

Finally, remember that many of us will find ourselves in both roles – a “Driver” or a “Walker” – at any given time, so be mindful of your duties from both perspectives: Drive Safe and Walk Safe!


This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.