Walking (and driving) in a winter wonderland


Drivers who don’t clear their windows risk looking through the “winter tunnel.”


During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, many more people spent time outdoors for exercise, even in the winter, and many have continued that outdoor habit as virus levels have dropped. In many neighborhoods, you can see people jogging, pushing baby carriages, chasing toddlers, walking dogs and riding bikes as they exercise, get fresh air and socialize 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, 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 their “home turf” zones. After a day working then commuting on busy highways and main thoroughfares, drivers may tend to relax when they hit that quiet “home zone” where they are almost safely in the driveway.

So, both drivers and walkers out on the streets need to be more cognizant of each other and better prepare for the walks and the drives.


Walkers, skaters, bikers: Pay attention to the traffic around you. One memory aid is to “Walk Left/Ride Right” – in other words, walk toward oncoming traffic and ride with traffic when using bikes. People walking with friends, children and even pets can find themselves in situations where they 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 people can find themselves 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.

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