Drivesmart column: Be Safe, Be Seen

always assume that drivers cannot see you

By Tim Schewe

One would think that the most likely pedestrian to be struck on our highways would be a child. They are impulsive, may not follow the rules because they don’t know them, and have not yet had the experience to fear the outcome of a bad decision.

If you do think that this is the case, you would be wrong. The most likely age group to be involved in a pedestrian collision is the 26- to 35-year-olds, followed by the 36- to 45-year-olds and then the 46- to 55-year-olds.

These three age groups account for three of the seven pedestrians struck on B.C. highways every day and pedestrians account for 14 per cent of Canadian traffic fatalities.

Old enough to know better? One would certainly hope so!

According to ICBC, 57 pedestrians are killed and 2,600 are injured each year in collisions, with 78 per cent of incidents happening at intersections.

Yes, the laws say that vehicles and pedestrians each “own” their allotted portions of the highways and must look out for each other. This doesn’t always happen, so drivers and pedestrians alike need to take more care during the twilight and hours of darkness to stay out of each other’s way.

Pedestrian safety depends on the ability to be seen. This can be a challenge as most pedestrians think that they are much more visible than they really are. Being over confident of your conspicuity can lead to taking risks where you cannot win.

While the courts have decided that a pedestrian might choose to dress in black without being negligent, they must factor the ability to be seen by others into their decisions when they are on the roadway.

One cannot depend on light coloured clothing for protection during periods of low light. Studies have shown that pedestrians dressed in black with small reflectors at ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows and shoulders are recognizable, and avoidable, well before a pedestrian dressed completely in white with no reflectors.

This phenomenon is known as biological motion.

An interesting consideration is that low beam headlights are aimed to the right to keep out of the eyes of approaching drivers. You will not be as well lit while walking from left to right across the front of a vehicle.

Perhaps the best defensive attitude for a pedestrian is to always assume that drivers cannot see you.

When the paths of drivers and pedestrians must cross, be sure that you are well aware of each other and communicate your intentions to avoid a collision.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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