Which Side of the Road You Should Walk On

Updated: Apr. 21, 2020

Don't turn a healthy habit into a safety risk. Walk on the correct side of the road and follow these other walking safety tips.

If you’ve made a routine of a daily stroll, congratulations! You’re getting these awesome benefits of a 15-minute walk. But there’s one simple mistake that could be putting your life at risk.

Almost 137,000 pedestrians went to the ER with car crash-related injuries in 2017, and 5,977 died in such crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In other words, a pedestrian died in a traffic incident once every 88 minutes.

Why you should walk facing traffic

Luckily, there are some steps you can take to stay safe on foot. Sure, you drive on the right side of the road, but that’s not where you should be as a pedestrian. You should always use a sidewalk if there’s one available, but if you need to stay on the road, the CDC recommends walking toward traffic. So does certified personal trainer and walking expert Judy Heller, co-founder of the Annual NW Regional Racewalk Retreat for Olympic-style racewalking. “The ideal is to be walking in the direction of oncoming traffic,” she says. “At all times, walkers need to be aware of traffic flow, and watchful as well as abiding by the walking rules of the road.”

Seems like it couldn’t make much difference, but one Finnish study of pedestrian-car accidents between 2006 and 2010 would argue otherwise. Simply walking against traffic instead of with it cut the risk of getting hit by a car by an average of 77 percent, according to the findings.

Why such a big difference? Well, if you walk the same direction you’d drive, the cars closest to you are coming from behind. That means you’d need to rely on the driver to see you and react if they’re coming up too closely. If the person behind the wheel is distracted, you could end up injured—or worse.

On the other hand, when you’re walking against traffic, you can see the cars heading toward you. Facing those vehicles lets you see danger coming and get out of the way if necessary, and you aren’t putting your life in the hands of every driver who passes. “Do not assume a vehicle sees you or that they will stop,” Heller adds. (Keep your feet healthy with these podiatrist-recommended walking shoes.)

Other walking safety tips you should follow

In addition to walking on the correct side of the road, there are a few other safety tips you should follow if you are walking outside, according to Heller. “I’m not against listening to podcasts or music, but please, don’t wear earbuds,” she says. Opt for your speaker instead. You should also obey the rules of the road, including traffic signals. If you need to stop, it’s a good time to do some light stretches, Heller says. Save your texting breaks for after your walk and always look both directions before crossing streets to make sure.

Although Heller says walking in the daylight is the safest option, if you choose to go for a stroll when it’s darker out make sure you wear visible light-colored clothing, if possible. Next time you go for a walk or run, face traffic and keep alert while you use these tips to get the most happiness from your daily walk.