SIDNEY — It’s time to put the winter coats away (maybe), pull out your tennis shoes and start walking.
“There are safety rules while you’re walking,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart. “Like the old joke says, you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. And there’s truth in that. Today we have people using cellphones and texting while they’re walking.”
And while they are occupied on their phones, said Lenhart, the person isn’t paying attention to where they are walking.
“In 2016, people under the age of 40 were eight times more likely to be injured while walking that in the past,” said Lenhart. “Sixty-two percent of them are on the phone. They fall, trip or walk into the street without looking.”
There were 5,987 people killed in 2016 while there were walking. Of that number, 181 were from Ohio. There were no walkers killed in Shelby County, said Lenhart, however one person was killed in Miami County.”
Some states, he said, have adopted legislation prohibiting people from using a cellphone while they are walking.
“There’s a New Jersey law that states you can’t text and walk at the same time,” said Lenhart. “If you’re caught.”
The charge, he said, is a minor misdemeanor.
Walking, he said, is a healthy activity that he encourages everyone to participate in. But there are some simple rules a walker should follow.
“Always walk facing the traffic and walk on a sidewalk if possible,” said Lenhart. “This is different that when you’re riding a bicycle and you ride in the same direction of the traffic.
“Always cross the street safely — look left and right before you do,” he said. “Make eye contract with the driver of a vehicle and wave at them indicating you’ve seen them. Avoid jaywalking.
“Stay aware of bicyclists and runners behind you. Move to one side or the other for them because they’re going faster than you.”
Lenhart said walkers should walk in a straight line, and not zig-zag back and forth on the sidewalk.
“Be visible,” he said. “In the daytime, wear bright clothing. At night, wear reflectors. Be predictable when you walk — stay on one side of the sidewalk or the other. Watch your arms while you’re walking. People like to swing their arms for better exercise. But that’s dangerous to people running by you or those on bicycles.”
If you’re listening to music while you’re walking, you should always keep the volume down, said Lenhart. This will help ensure you can hear other walkers, runners or vehicles that are around you.
And don’t play games while you’re walking, he said.
“If you’re walking your dog, use a short leash,” said Lenhart. “This is for better safety. If the leash is long, you get trip on it or get your legs tangled up and fall. A shorter leash also makes it easier to control your dog if there’s another dog in the area.”
If you’re walking with someone, said Lenhart, walk in a single file. Make sure you monitor your heart rate and drink plenty of water while you’re walking.
“Be aware of strangers around you,” said Lenhart. “Walk on paths that other people walk. If you see someone suspicious, change your path and get to a safe location.”
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.