Pedestrian technology is expected to be available soon. They will detect those pedestrians who communicate their location through portable transmitters, and those who are found through image analysis technology. Once a pedestrian on a dangerous path is detected, the system will sound a warning and frame the pedestrian’s location on the vehicle’s navigation system screen. Future refinements may include automatic speed or steering control if the system determines this override is required.
If 2005 is a predictor of the discouraging trend in pedestrian fatalities, then such early detection and warning systems can’t come soon enough. In late December, longer nights and reduced visibility due to winter weather appear to have been significant in contributing to two more fatalities.
On Wednesday December 21st, an 84-year-old woman was hit in the crosswalk intersection at Fir Street and 14th Avenue in Vancouver at about 5:45 pm. The striking vehicle was a stretch-limousine presumably driven by a professional driver. Media reports say there was no indication that the limo driver was speeding. Heavy traffic in addition to the rain and darkness may have contributed. About two hours later, a 21-year-old driver hit a 75-year-old man crossing mid-block in the 3400 block of Southeast Marine Drive in Vancouver. These deaths brought the total number of pedestrians killed on Vancouver streets to 19, 6 higher than the annual average of 13 pedestrian fatalities in the city.
Meanwhile in Burnaby two pedestrians were injured in two accidents that happened within half an hour: A 36-year-old woman was hit by an 80-year-old driver heading west on Canada Way at Norland; and a 53-year-old man near the intersection of 11th Avenue and 12th Street was hit by a vehicle. Pedestrian collisions are now the leading cause of injuries and death in motor vehicle crashes in Burnaby.
These statistics prompt a review of possible causes, in addition to the above-noted “usual culprits.” Whether walking or driving, seniors have slower reaction times, and, understandably, difficulty “getting out of the way”. Statistically, seniors are the most at risk pedestrians. Pedestrians who jaywalk or cross in unlit crosswalks are also at risk. Add dark clothing, an umbrella and not checking to ensure that the way is clear, and the risk becomes extreme. Pedestrians have the right of way but they assume this without being watchful at their peril.
Both pedestrians and drivers must work hard to keep their attention focused on their mobility. From the screaming advertising on buses to ringing cell phones, radio or audio “backgrounds,” the passing parade of window displays and sidewalk traffic, talkative passengers, baffling traffic signage, the number of possible distractions seems to always be growing. Impairment on the part of both drivers and pedestrians as a result of alcohol and drugs, is also a factor that cannot be overlooked. New pedestrian technology should help, but obviously will never be a complete answer to the problem of pedestrians trying to cross the road.
Please drive safely.