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Staying Safe in the Dark

Road Rules has written many articles about the added risk — especially for vulnerable road users — of shorter darker days and slick wet streets.  The end-of-summer-beginning-of-fall may be early for another one, except that this year, pedestrian fatalities have reached new highs and there are more cyclists and runners on the roads.  It’s a good time for everyone to start thinking about making seasonal adjustments.

Be Visible in the Dark

For one thing it’s a new season in the stores and, if you are the least bit inclined to take advantage of pre-season sales and enjoy the newest product enhancements, it’s not too early to start thinking about dressing not only for the weather but also for the time of day.  Being visible in the darkness is easier than it’s ever been.

The old tip— “wear light coloured clothing” is still a good one, but also look for shoes, boots, jackets, coats, hats, pants, gloves, and umbrellas with reflective banding or detailing.  Runners and cyclists especially should embrace the benefits of such designs.  Even pedestrians who ‘commute’ in business attire have lots more options.

Planning the Trip in Advance

Route planning is an important consideration.  Pedestrians, runners, and cyclists should find the best-lit routes and stick with them.  Although the best-lit routes may also be the busier routes, the trade-off may still be worth the extra stress of navigating through the busyness.  The safest way to navigate in busy traffic is the lawful way.  Pedestrians and runners need to follow the rules.

Pedestrians and cyclists need to be visible in the dark

Rules for Pedestrians and Cyclists

Use sidewalks and cross at designated crosswalks.  Stop at stoplights and when the pedestrian walk sign is activated, check that the crosswalk is clear before proceeding. While you are in the crosswalk, especially one that crosses many lanes, keep an eye out for stoppage in all the lanes.  If you are in the crosswalk when the signal changes, proceed as quickly and safely as possible to complete your crossing.  If the sign says “Don’t Walk” and you are not yet in the crosswalk, don’t enter into it.

Cyclists need to follow the rules.  Ride only on the roads or on designated bicycle pathways.  Ride single file.  Stop at stoplights and at stop signs.  Signal your turns.  Hardly a week goes by without at least one letter to a local daily newspaper editor railing about cyclists not following the rules.  It seems almost every driver has a cycling story to tell.  Anecdotal evidence can be extremely persuasive.

Are Your Lights Working?

It’s time for drivers and cyclists to check that their headlights and taillights are working.  All current vehicle models have daytime running lights.  “Daytime running lights only” is frequently seen at night suggesting not enough drivers have sorted out the intricacies of their lighting systems.  More automobile models have automatic light control settings.  Activating high beams usually involves overriding the auto control feature.  If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to master your vehicle’s lighting controls.

When it’s harder to see, it’s important to stay alert to the noises in the busyness.  It’s unsafe to walk, run or cycle in darkness while wearing headphones.

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