Pedestrian Self Defense against Cars!

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Self-defense
25 Sep 2011

You are walking along the sidewalk and all of a sudden you hear a swoosh from the street (as well as an expletive) and you find yourself wearing the latest flavor of slurpee! How about you are walking along (are you sensing a theme) and out of the blue (or so it seems) a car squeals and hops the curb in front of you – missing you by inches?

Have you had either of these incidents happen to you? Well I have since I have increased my exercises in the last few years. The first couple of times it happened – I figured it was a fluke. I mean society had not devolved to the state that impoliteness reigns supreme? But as incidents seemed to keep coming every few weeks in my “safe” neighborhood I began to see a need for pedestrian self defense against cars!

In this post I will highlight the issues, what has happened to me and others, as well as suggest the martial arts solutions to many of these events. Here is an opening video for your perusal.

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So in the video a guy was walking along the sidewalk and got hit by a car. My guess is drugs or alcohol may have been involved but so what? I mean what does the guy that was hit care the reason? Whether is was mechanical, medical, old age, or abuse – the guy is just as hit.

What did the guy do wrong? Nothing. I mean we have been taught as small children to walk on the sidewalks and not in the street. Cars are in the street and even though in most places pedestrians have the right of way if the car sees them – a car is bigger and faster. The only practical way to protect pedestrians is to separate them from the cars… or is it?

What about bicyclists? The have the same issue but no way out. Sorry bicyclists – I don’t have a solution for you other than try to ride your bikes away from fast moving cars. But getting back to walkers, runners, walking the dog, going to the corner market for groceries or people going for a Sunday stroll. How can you be safe? Take a look at this next video to see another area that pedestrians have to be cautious.

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I am extrapolating here but it looks like one guy was trying to make a yellow light an may have ran a red light and the other guy was punching it when the light turned green. Both actions are a bad idea. The other glaring problem is the pedestrian was probably walking late – figuring cars would see him and stop. Bad move! So my quick evaluation is three bad decisions let to the car and then pedestrian accident.

Could this accident been avoided? Yes but it would have taken a bit of forthought that most of us take for granted. The pedistrain thought he was safe probably since everyother time in his life he pushed the limits – nothing bad even happend. Bad call that day.

So I think the problem is people are not thinking ahead. I know people ought to be safe on sidewalks but is it reasonable to add an additional layer of security or additional step of safety measure if you will? I think so because I was almost hit several times by cars in the last couple of years. The latest incident changed the way I think about pedestrian safety!

I was taking about a five mile walk in Santee, CA around town center the long way. I was walking with traffic in Mission Gorge road and I had been carefully looking back at every intersection and then crossing the streets. I reasoned that if I made sure I was clear and also had the right of way (in California pedestrian’s have the right of way crossing from the street corners for the most part) and I reasoned that if any cars came along they would see me – realize I had the right of way and slow down and let me finish.

I did not look back to check as I crossed what was essentially a driveway at the Barnes and Noble store. I could cross the drive way in 10 seconds so I figured I was safe.  Well all of a sudden I heard this noise behind me (not a horn or squealing of tires) and as I turned my heart jumped! A small car with a young female was bearing down on me – slowing down just enough to miss me but still take the corner fast (at least that is what I hope was going on in her head). I ran out of the way and she actually sped up and took the turn at about 25 miles per hour (or so it seemed). She showed no concern for coming so close to me!!!

I shook off the adrenaline spike and walked for another 20 feet. My phone range. I answered and my wife anxiously asked me if I was alright! I told here I was fine and she told me she thought she saw me running in front of the bedroom window with a worried look. But when she looked out front I was not there. I told her I almost got hit by a car and she was very tuned into me. I assured her I was ok and I would be more careful on the way home.

Here is another video of a pedestrian that did not do as well as I did but actually turned out ok for her.

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Window shopping takes on a whole new meaning huh? Generally this does not happen too much where one car hits another and then a pedestrian but other than stay alert – what can you do?

One more thing that I mentioned before is getting stuff thrown at you. How can you aviod that? I mean by the time you are hit and duck out of the way – the car is gone. You cannot get the tags.

Martial Artists the world over tend to look at defense seriously. I mean so what if you can defend yourself from mugger on the street if a car kills you?

What I have realized is the sidewalks are not safe. So what do you do if something is not safe but you still have to do it? Be careful!!!

Ok grasshopper, here is what I suggest. Walk against traffic on the sidewalk wherever possible. If it is not possible to walk against traffic – keep an eye as much as possible on traffic behind you. I understand this will not be easy but as a lifetime marital artist – I already take the additional burden of walking around corners or in hallways carefully.

Mostly it is possible to walk against traffic though unless the other side of the street does not have a sidewalk. I’ve found that walking against traffic as eliminated people throwing stuff at me. I think if someone can see them – the bullies are too scared to confront people or at least they think they will get caught so that don’t mess with you.

So now at karate class you can add street tactics to your curriculum and at least talk about defenses against ANY attack – even cars!

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6 Responses to “Pedestrian Self Defense against Cars!”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    I was studying surgery in France at the time and my girlfriend from home (although she had dual French citizenship) was visiting me. We went to cross the street and I said, “Be careful!” To which she replied, “Don’t worry, they’ll stop!” To which I said, “That’s what I’ll write on your tombstone!”

    No question, cars are on the top of the food chain! Thanks for the good practical advice on how to stay alive in the asphalt jungle, John!

  2. Maricel Smith Says:

    Its really better to be safe than being sorry. I watched all the video here. I think your practical advice is one of the best thing to do.
    Maricel Smith recently posted..Lottery SystemMy Profile

  3. Matt Klein Says:

    Very traumatic experience for that little girl in the video, who despite the circumstances, handled it very maturely.

    Have always learned to look first, whether in a car, or walking. Just today, damn bus went through the light a good two seconds after the pedestrian light said go.

    Head up, headphones off, always be aware of your surroundings. You never know what will hit you, a right cross from a crim or a bus.
    Matt Klein recently posted..Never Give Up | Anything can happen in Brazilian Jiu-JitsuMy Profile

  4. TheMartialARtsReporter Says:

    It’s a mad, mad world out there!
    Your informative post just reaffirmed my general approach of being alert at all times when stepping outside of home.
    No matter when and where.
    John, thanks for the post and stay safe out there!

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Dr. J!

    Sounds like you wanted to keep the girlfriend for a while. Sage advice always.


    “better safe than sorry” is advice I still use today.


    Yep you never know what the other guys is going to do. Yesterday I had to slowdown and lay on the horn for a driver that came into my lang (rather than slow down) and the tailgater behind me almost got to meet me. :(

    Hey Tiger!

    Sage advice sensi and timeless.

  6. MMA in London Says:

    Accidents happen from the time we don’t expected most.

    For the drivers; Please be defensive driving. To rush to much… Don’t act too late. Follow the street rules.

    For the pedestrian; If you’re on the busy or narrow streets always remember the children song “Beep beep the small jeep came running down the street. Stop. Look. And listen. Stop. Look. And listen.” Anticipate what may happened.