HENDERSONVILLE, TN (WKRN) — The basic rules — stop, look, and listen — have almost become obsolete on the roads, and advancements in technology are partly to blame, according to Hendersonville Police Officer Jamie Owens.

“The number one contributor we see in accidents is distractions,” Owens said.

Everyone plays a role in changing the record-breaking trend of 49 pedestrians killed in Nashville in 2022 and it starts with mutual respect.

“Being aware of your surroundings applies to everything we do. It applies to being a pedestrian walking along the roadway. It applies to being a driver driving where there are going be a lot of pedestrians present,” Owens continued.

It’s a change for drivers comfortable with once calm intersections now contending with constant commuter congestion.

“There’s such a huge increase in traffic in general everywhere in Middle Tennessee, that’s obviously going to put more cars on the road around pedestrians,” explained Owens. “And then, there are so few mass transit options in this area, that’s going to increase our number of walkers.”

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Pedestrians can use these tips to help protect themselves:

  • Wear bright reflective clothing, even during the day
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever available
  • If there’s no sidewalk, walk facing traffic
  • Cross in crosswalks or at intersections
  • Pause even if the walk signal indicates “go” and check for distracted drivers
  • Make eye contact with drivers as you cross to ensure those behind the wheel see you
  • Take out earbuds
  • “There could be a vehicle locking the brakes up because they’ve traveled through an intersection,” Owens said, “and that’s a warning you’re not going to hear.”

Drivers should follow these safety tips:

  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Stop with enough space to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk, there may be people walking or biking where you can’t see

While these tips seem obvious, reminders may go a long way in keeping pedestrians alive.

“We can all continue to enjoy the outdoors and walk and jog places,” Owens said, “but just continue to be really aware of your surroundings. Practice just the basic safety tips, and try to remain as undistracted as possible at all times.”