Friday, November 2, 2018

Walking in the dark - tips for staying safe

By Ann Briggs

This weekend, we turn our clocks back an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, and for many of us, we'll start living like moles - going to work in the dark, coming home in the dark - sigh! Unfortunately, the numbers tell us that if you're a person who walks during these darker days, you're more likely to be involved in a collision with a person driving a vehicle.

For someone like me, these shorter, rainy days mean a few changes to my daily after-work walk routine. I'll start wearing my light-colored jacket, a reflective vest (fashionista!) and carrying a flashlight in hopes that drivers see me when crossing driveways and intersections. I've been doing this long enough to know that even in the best of conditions people driving don't always see me, or they're simply not paying attention.
Left: Using cross walks is always a smart idea, but remember to be cautious even when the crosswalks are well marked. Right: Wearing brighter clothing is one way to help make yourself more visible when walking at night.

We can't always "gear up" with visible clothing for walking in the dark - sometimes it's just not possible or practical. Think about the times you've made impromptu plans to meet friends for dinner and had to walk to your vehicle or bus stop in the dark. Or what about the person who has limited means - they might be fortunate just to have a warm coat - regardless of the color. Clothing and any reflectivity or lighting you have with you are the last line of defense, not the first.

So, for those of you who find yourself walking in the dark, here are a few of my personal safety tips to help keep you from becoming a hood ornament:
  • Try to cross the roadway at lighted intersections - it might mean walking a bit further, but it's where a person driving a vehicle might better see you and expect you to cross.
  • Don't ever think that a marked crosswalk will protect you - by law drivers are supposed to stop to let a person cross the roadway at ALL intersection crosswalks - marked or not - but apparently not everyone has received that message.
  • Never assume that if one person stops for you to cross the roadway, the person in the next lane will. I hang back in front of the stopped vehicle until I'm sure the person in the other lane plans to do the same. Again, the law tells drivers to stop when they see another stopped vehicle, precisely because they don't know what's beyond their line of sight - but not everyone does that.
  • Walk on the sidewalk if there is one; otherwise walk facing traffic so you can see what's coming at you.
  • If there's a running vehicle in a driveway, make sure the person driving sees you before you cross. It's worth the wait to see their surprised face rather than to have to try to dodge out of the way.
  • Be wary of crossing in front of drivers turning right; they often approach the intersection with their heads cranked to the left, looking for an opportunity to enter traffic. When they start moving and finally realize I'm standing at their passenger window, I like to smile, wave and thank them for not killing me.
Walking on paths or areas with good lighting can help keep pedestrians safe as days grow darker.
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate people who drive. I'm a driver too and I've made my share of mistakes behind the wheel. However, hoofing it on a regular basis has made me a better driver, more aware of all people who share the road. Fortunately, with my mistakes no one got hurt - and, really isn't that the point - making sure everyone gets to go home safely at the end of the day?

Let's all slow down and take a little extra time to compensate for the reduced visibility during the next several months.


Unknown said...

How about one of these articles aimed at drivers?

WSDOT said...

Great minds think alike! Over the next several weeks we plan to cover safety tips for people who ride bikes as well as those who drive.

Unknown said...

Good! It'll be interesting to see if those include as much victim blaming as this piece did.

Unknown said...

Also pedestrians should be encouraged to wear a reflector light of some sort if they dress in all black. I wear a silver-colored jacket to be more visible at night but most people dress in black which is hard for drivers to see on streets that aren't well lit.

Unknown said...

I see, no articles such as this for drivers. Just victim blaming with no responsibility placed on those not following the rules.

WSDOT said...
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WSDOT said...

Unknown, our agency tries to educate and inform all users of the roadways about ways to make sure everyone has a safe trip, regardless of the mode of travel. In our “Walking” blog, we remind drivers that all intersections – marked or not – are legal crosswalks and that drivers are by law required to let pedestrians cross. Perhaps you missed our February 2019 blog, to raise awareness of changes to the Washington Drivers Guide which are intended to increase safety for people who walk or ride bikes. We also posted a blog in January 2019 which provided some tips for safe travel with a focus on people who commute by bike during the winter months: While these blogs are as individual as the authors who wrote them, our message remains the same – we want everyone to be able to get home safely at the end of the day.

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