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Staying safe

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This week is Virginia Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Week, a move by safety advocates to protect travelers throughout the Commonwealth.

    From walking the loop to biking along the Blue Ridge Parkway, from walking to school or to a bus stop to riding a bike in a local neighborhood, it’s important that everyone be reminded of the need for safety.
    DRIVE SMART Virginia, BikeWalk Virginia and DMV, The Virginia Highway Safety Office, have joined with Governor Bob McDonnell to support efforts that raise awareness about the importance of sharing the road in order to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths in the state. Americans are becoming more concerned with their health and the environment, and bicycling and walking are increasingly viewed as sustainable, inexpensive and efficient forms of transportation.
    But those can be dangerous, if safety isn’t practiced.
    In 2009, 84 people died walking or cycling on Virginia’s roadways. In addition, 607 cyclists and 1,402 pedestrians were injured. Many crashes, according to a press release from the state, can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of traffic laws and/or to high risk behaviors. States Janet Brooking, executive director of DRIVE SMART Virginia: “Many people don’t realize that a bicycle is considered a vehicle in Virginia and has the same duties and rights as a motor vehicle on the road.” This means cyclists and motorists have to obey all traffic signs, signals, lights and markings.  A bicycle should always travel in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic.
    Taking the time to more clearly understand one’s role and responsibility on the road is a key factor in keeping all travelers safer on the roadways. “With area schools back in session and many students walking, cycling or driving to school, it is critical to follow traffic laws and be particularly alert on the road,” adds Dr. Kimberly Perry, executive director of BikeWalk Virginia.
    Safety precautions should be used.  Helmets and reflective clothing can help keep pedestrians and cyclists safe, while safety belts protect motorists.

    Here are some key tips:
• Motorists should approach and pass bicyclists at a reasonable speed and allow at least two feet between their vehicles and bicyclists when passing.
• Motorists must yield to pedestrians and permit them to cross the roads safely.
• Motorists are required to come to a full stop for a blind person with a cane or guide dog.
• Pedestrians should use sidewalks if available. When walking on roads, walk facing traffic and travel on extreme edge.
• Pedestrians and cyclists can improve safety by wearing bright colors during the day and reflective material or blinking lights at night. Light colored clothing is slightly helpful in making you visible at night, reflective tape or reflective fabric is much better.
• Bicycles are considered vehicles when ridden on roads and streets and therefore must follow rules that apply to motor vehicles, including riding on the right side with traffic and yielding to pedestrians.
• Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs, signals, lights and markings.
• When riding at night, bicyclists must use rear reflectors; if using roads with speed limits of 35mph or more, use red taillights visible 600 feet.
• Violation of a traffic law is a civil penalty or traffic infraction punishable by a fine or points against your driver’s license.