At this time of year, you'll often see admonitions to motorists to slow down and remember that there are now children out there walking to school or the bus stop. These are good reminders for us all to get, but they're only half the safety equation.

It's equally important that youngsters take precautions of their own — cross at the crosswalk or corner. Before crossing the street, look left, right, then left again. Walk on the sidewalk if there is one. If there isn't, walk facing traffic.

Those of us who now have kids or grandkids in school all got this same advice when we were young. This generation, however, needs another layer of counsel, on account of the electronic gizmos upon which we've become so dependent.

"Don't assume vehicles will stop," warns the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, an arm of the Federal Highway Administration. "Make eye contact with drivers, don't just look at the vehicle. If a driver is on a cell phone, he or she may not be paying enough attention to drive safely."

It's not just the drivers who are distracted, however. As a cyclist who frequently rides on streets and pathways in various parts of Howard County, I see distracted pedestrians — adults, too, not just kids — all the time.

Whether holding it up to their ears (so old-fashioned) or using Bluetooth, people on foot and on the phone at the same time have become a common sight. What makes them think being involved in a telephone conversation while walking is any safer than doing so while driving?

A 2013 Ohio State University study found that in 2010, more than 1,500 pedestrians were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for injuries related to using a cell phone while walking. I know that I've had several near misses while on my bike, trying to pass pedestrians oblivious to my bell-ringing and verbal warnings because they're preoccupied with a phone conversation or the music pumping through their ear buds.

For a culture that's as crime-conscious as ours seems to be, this is a curious phenomenon. A mugger could have a field day on some of the pathways around here, jumping people strolling through the great outdoors with little or no awareness of their surroundings.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center cautions walkers not to wear headphones or talk on a cell while crossing the street. I'd take that a step further and say don't use those things at all until you've reached your destination.

If your phone call simply cannot wait until after your walk (and chances are, it can, really), at least step off the pathway or get out of the middle of the sidewalk, keep your head up and be aware of what's going on around you.

Even when they're not using iPods or their phones, some pedestrians still aren't all there. They walk in the middle of the pathway with their heads down, lost in thought. I get that. I can be a space cadet at times too. Just keep to the right (as you would behind the wheel), so that cyclists and faster pedestrians will at least have a way around you, even if they can't get your attention.

Meanwhile, I'll remind myself and my fellow cyclists to be aware that not all those on foot are going to acknowledge or even hear your bell or passing warning. Never assume they do. Slow down and pass with caution.

Another heads up for cyclists, particularly those who like to ride in the mid-to-late afternoon (a great part of the day as September progresses) — sometimes pedestrians travel in great packs. These herds are better known as your local high school cross country team. While on a ride in August, before the team's final cuts, I encountered Howard High hopefuls in bunches, totaling about 70.

Coaches are generally very good about keeping their charges alert for cyclists and other potential hazards, but I've noticed that some runners, particularly the stragglers, tend to get involved in conversations without much attention to oncoming traffic.

With more of us getting on bikes for both exercise and a viable transportation alternative, and with more of us (including me, I finally caved) using cell phones and other personal electronic devices daily, all of us need to work at being more aware of each other as we go along through our days, no matter how we get where we're going