BY HARVEY KOONER
WHEN you’re getting dressed in the morning for your day, you probably consider the weather. But if you’re going to be walking outside, do you ever think about how to dress so you are seen by drivers?
In a recent ICBC survey, we asked pedestrians how often they use reflective gear or clothing and only 21 per cent said they use it regularly. Yet, 33 per cent of drivers admitted to often nearly hitting pedestrians wearing dark clothing.
In the Lower Mainland, the number of crashes where a pedestrian is injured more than doubles in November and December compared to July and August. On these dark, wet fall days, it’s more important than ever to wear reflective clothing or gear. Without it, you might be invisible to drivers.
It may seem like common sense but when you cross the street, do you look left and right before stepping off the curb? Do you look left and right again as you cross for vehicles that may be turning? Drivers may be focused on oncoming traffic and may not even be looking for pedestrians in the crosswalk. You should always make eye contact with drivers – never assume that a driver has seen you. 42 per cent of drivers surveyed admitted they often do not see a pedestrian until the last second.
When you’re crossing the street, it’s not the time to use your cell phone or wear headphones. Focus your full attention on what’s happening around you – drivers may not always stop or obey traffic signals. Drivers surveyed said that they often see pedestrians crossing the street without checking traffic (94 per cent), using their cell phones while crossing (91 per cent) and even jaywalking while using their cell phones (83 per cent).
If you ever find yourself walking on a road without sidewalks, you need to take extra steps to stay safe. Always walk facing traffic so you can see oncoming vehicles. You should also understand that drivers may not anticipate seeing pedestrians on these roads so they may not even be looking for you. This makes it even more important that you are visible – use a flashlight, wear reflective gear or use a flashlight app on your smartphone. Reflective materials are relatively inexpensive and can be found at most sporting goods stores.
If you’re also a driver, you should always be looking for pedestrians – especially in dark, wet weather when visibility is limited, at intersections and near transit stops where pedestrians will be coming and going and may not use crosswalks. Another important tip is when you’re turning at an intersection, fully scan the crosswalk and make sure it is completely clear of pedestrians before turning.
Whether you’re a pedestrian or driver or both, it’s about making smart decisions and doing your part to help keep our roads safe for everyone.
ICBC’s Harvey Kooner is passionate about helping to raise road safety awareness in the community. In 2012, Harvey was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his many years of community service.