(KMID/KPEJ)- It will be more challenging for drivers to see pedestrians as days get shorter during the fall and winter months. That’s why the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” pedestrian safety campaign is kicking off National Pedestrian Safety Month today, reminding drivers and pedestrians to stay alert and watch out for each other.

Pedestrian traffic fatalities increased by 15 percent in Texas in 2021. The state saw 5,366 traffic crashes involving pedestrians, resulting in 841 fatalities and 1,470 serious injuries. The 12-county Odessa District had 18 pedestrian fatalities in 2021. Half of those were in the Odessa-Midland area.

“The fall season means not only a shift to cooler temperatures but also fewer hours of daylight, and visibility becomes an issue,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “It’s important for motorists to pay attention and look out for people walking, and for pedestrians to make sure they take steps to be seen.”

TxDOT is encouraging everyone to follow these safety tips to prevent a deadly encounter:

For drivers:

  • Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • When turning, yield the right of way to pedestrians.
  • Be cautious when passing stopped buses or other vehicles.
  • Pay attention and put your phone away, so you’re always prepared if pedestrians enter your path.
  • Follow the posted speed limit and drive to conditions.

For people walking:

  • Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks. Look left, right, then left again before crossing.
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing. Don’t assume drivers see you.
  • Follow all traffic and crosswalk signals.
  • Use the sidewalk. If there isn’t one, walk on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.
  • When walking, put away electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
  • Wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.