A Pedestrian's Near Miss Story

Pedestrian Caution SignI received a very detailed e-mail this week from a lady who described walking beside Willingdon Road southbound, facing in North Saanich during the early morning darkness. She paused, looked both ways for traffic and continued to the point where Willingdon begins and Canora Road diverges to the northeast.

She stopped and checked for traffic again from the small island that is present between lanes. Finding none, she began to cross the single lane. At this point, a vehicle approached from the south began to accelerate and the driver switched from low to high beam headlights.

Feeling threatened, the lady ran the rest of the way across the road narrowly avoiding a collision with the vehicle. She earned a blast of the horn for her efforts. Being generous, she wonders if the use of the horn was because the driver was also reacting to a bad scare.

She is also curious to find out if she was to blame for the situation and feels that a street light and marked pedestrian walkways would improve safety at the location.

As a wise pedestrian, this person has chosen a safer place to cross the highway. She’s effectively using the traffic island as a refuge while she observes and decides on proceeding. Had she been walking in the opposite direction, by crossing here she would have cut a three lane crossing to two and one, minimizing her exposure to vehicle traffic.

There is no indication of what she might or might not have done to identify herself to approaching drivers. In the absence of street lighting, light clothing, reflectors, arm bands, a flashlight or wand can be very useful to establish a presence. Drivers cannot react to things that they do not see or see soon enough to avoid.

Pedestrians tend to overestimate how visible they are to drivers.

On the other side of the windshield, drivers must always be attentive for both the expected and the unexpected, including yielding to pedestrians that don’t have the opportunity to cross in well lit intersections with marked crosswalks. The law imposes a duty not to collide with a pedestrian on a highway and to warn the pedestrian by using the horn if necessary.

We tend to drive at night much the same way we drive during the day. This has serious implications for things like pedestrians and wild animals when they are not within the cone illuminated by our headlights. During daylight they are generally easy to see, but at night if they are not lit by headlights they are effectively invisible. Don’t overdrive your headlights.

From an engineering perspective painted crosswalks cost money to create and maintain. Unless there is a reasonable volume of pedestrian traffic that uses the crosswalk, there is more sense in saving that cost for use elsewhere. They can even be dangerous as some pedestrians treat them as an entitlement rather than calculating whether it is safe to do so before and during their use.

No doubt the same cost/benefit criteria is applied to street lighting.

This story serves to underline that interactions between pedestrians and drivers are co-operative in nature. The highways are not for the exclusive use of one over the other.


This is an important story. It is a relief to know that nobody was hurt.  Years ago a police constable quoted in a Times-Colonist article suggested carrying a flashlight and wearing reflective gear for walks after dusk.  I do.  At mid-day I also wore it while changing a flat tire on 4th Street in Cumberland.  The officer didn't blame motorists, but suggested ways of just making yourself more visible. While changing the tire I used the four-ways and opened the bonnet and the trunk.

In Courtenay, BC a few years back a woman walking along Dyke Rd. was hit by a motorist.  In Courtenay in August a 90 year-old-man in a pedestrian cross-walk was killed  by vehicle.  Still in August along Dyke Rd. a middle-aged-man walking between parked cars was struck by a motorist.  He was sent to St. Joseph's Hospital.   I could have been 'that driver' and try operate my car with more attention actively searching out a pedestrian at a cross-walk.  Soon as I see a pedestrian I check my rear view mirror then decide to stop with 4-ways flashing.  I flip through ICBC's "Learn to Drive Smart" guidebook.  I make mistakes driving, but think I'm improving.

Before my 15 year-old daughter was born I wore lots of reflective gear while cycling.  Her seeing me with it it did not encourage her to wear it.  When she hit double digits I said it was her a choice.  And she chose not to.

"Dad, why do you wear reflective stuff?"

"I'm too lazy to be super vigilant with cars and I can't stand having a headache or toothache: so why should I volunteer to be traffic victim?"

She does wear some reflective gear now.  My daughter lives with her mom in Manitoba and is happily enrolled in driver training through her high school.

Hi, I am old enough to remember when this duty was imposed.

It was hailed at the time as a giant step forward in safety, but I can't trust it.  If I get hit by a car it matters little if I'm in the right if I'm dead right.

I'm a frequent pedestrian, and I never feel safe around cars.  Drivers can have all sorts of things interfering with their ability to see and react to my presence, and I cannot therefore trust them to "do their duty".

Thus, I make sure that I am absolutely certain that I *cannot* be hit by a car when crossing a street whether at a controlled intersection or any other point.  If there is a moving car that is physically capable of hitting me, I let it pass rather than step into its path.  If a car stops to let me by, I still walk behind it.

To do this I must look both ways (all 4 at intersections).  My daily commute takes me past a high school.

Every day, students cross the road without looking at all.  They expect that drivers will see them and stop.

On a side note, I wear a high-viz vest when walking in twilight or darker, and just from my own experience it seems to make a huge difference in the number of near misses.

I've commented here before on how unsafe intersections are for pedestrians, despite "pedestrian signals" and their new countdown provisions.