What Is Defensive Walking?

Posted on by datateam

One of the greatest protections you have as a pedestrian in San Diego is defensive walking. Defensive walking is a proactive technique that could help you avoid a harmful collision. It asks you to take charge of your safety by being aware of your surroundings and anticipating the actions of those around you. Defensive walking expects the worst-case scenario, not what drivers should reasonably do according to the law. It is a practice that could help you anticipate or even prevent pedestrian accidents while walking in downtown San Diego.

What is defensive walking?

The Art of Defensive Walking

Thousands of drivers engage regularly in defensive driving techniques, but most pedestrians are unaware of defensive walking. When you are on the streets as a pedestrian, you are the world’s most vulnerable road user. It is extremely important to take all steps possible to protect yourself from a traffic collision when walking around San Diego. Even a minor collision could lead to bone fractures, a traumatic brain injury or organ damages. One of the key strategies you can use to protect yourself is defensive walking.

  • Identify high-risk situations: Take stock of your surroundings and search for red flags such as speeding drivers, lack of a safe crosswalk or nighttime driving.
  • Take proactive safety measures: Once you ascertain a higher risk of a car hitting you, take steps to control your safety as much as possible.
  • Increase your visibility: Signal to the driver by making eye contact if you are in danger of being hit. Dress in bright colors to help reduce the risk of an accident while walking around San Diego.
  • Remove yourself from harm’s way: Go back to the curb and wait until the risk has passed to cross. Do not try to rush yourself across a crosswalk in front of an oncoming car.

Defensive walking is about staying vigilant, assessing your surroundings and taking steps to minimize your risk of an accident. Do not look down at your phone, chat with friends or engage in other distractions that could limit your ability to monitor the road or sidewalk. Stay alert at all times to what is happening around you, especially when crossing the street.


You do not automatically have the right to cross the road in San Diego, even at crosswalks. If the intersection has a signal, you must wait for the Walk sign before entering the road. The only places you automatically have the right-of-way are at crosswalks without signals, four-way stops and unmarked intersections. Even in these locations, however, you must stop at the curb and check both sides of the road before entering the street. Stepping off when it is unsafe could lead to your liability for an accident.

When practicing defensive walking at crosswalks and intersections, assume drivers will break the rules, not follow them. Watch oncoming vehicles with the expectation that they will run the red light or fail to yield you the right-of-way. Never step into traffic assuming a driver will see you and stop. Distracted, drowsy, drunk or otherwise negligent drivers may not be paying attention to the road and might not see you in time to hit the brakes. Only step off a curb when it is safe to do so and when you have the legal right-of-way.

Jaywalking, or crossing the street at a place other than a crosswalk or intersection, is a crime in San Diego. You could face a traffic infraction and a fine for jaywalking as a pedestrian. It can also be highly dangerous. Drivers are not anticipating seeing a pedestrian cross the middle of the street and may react dangerously, such as slamming on the brakes or swerving to avoid a collision. Or a driver may not see you at all, resulting in a serious accident. Walking defensively takes following the rules, paying attention and being in control of the situation as much as possible.