Walking your dog or exiting your vehicle in a parking lot typically are not treacherous undertakings, but they can be during winter if the pavements are covered with ice and snow. You are minding the task at hand when suddenly – uh-oh! – no traction, you slip and then the inevitable fall. Boom! 

In the winter, parking lots, sidewalks and streets can prove hazardous for pedestrians. This is why you must take extra precautions during those wintertime strolls. The first thing is to look out for your own safety. Always be prepared just in case you do fall. 

Tips to ensure a safe wintertime stroll

You can prepare for a safe jaunt outside in a number of other ways. Here are some tips to consider:

  • If you see patches of ice and on the ground, walk around them and go on the grass instead.
  • Take smaller, flat-footed steps that may help you avoid a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk.
  • Make sure you are wearing the right clothing. Since it’s cold outside, dress in layers. That extra padding from sweaters and coats not only will keep you warm, but they may just soften your fall as well. Also, wear good shoes or boots that can provide you with great traction.
  • Make sure to walk in well-lit areas. You want to see where you are going.
  • Common sense tells us not to walk outside and stare at a smart phone during any season – not just in the winter.

Hazards of falling

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800,000 people each year are hospitalized due to a fall injury, usually a head injury or hip fracture. Falls also are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. Other injuries caused by falls may include back strains, and fractures of the hip, elbow, wrist and shoulder. But if you’re falling and can’t avoid it, let it happen, and be prepared to think fast.

What to do if you fall

Usually when you slip, your feet will fly forward. Such a spill may cause severe head injuries. One way to limit head injuries is to tuck your chin to your chest and land on your shoulders. This way, your head will not receive the brunt of the impact when you hit the ground.

If possible, try to fall on a fleshier part of your body. That means your butt. This strategy may help you avoid striking your hip, knee, arm or wrist.

Tucking your body into a ball may also prevent fractures. Typically, we try to break our falls by using our hands. Try to avoid this because it can cause fractures to the fingers, wrist, elbows and arms. Pull your arms toward your body.

Winter can be an enjoyable outdoor walking season. You just have to take a few extra precautions to ensure your safety on sometimes icy sidewalks.