Be Safe, Be Seen

pedestrian conspicuityOne would think that the most likely pedestrian to be struck on our highways would be a child. They are impulsive, may not follow the rules because they don't know them, and have not yet had the experience to fear the outcome of a bad decision.

If you do think that this is the case, you would be wrong. The most likely age group to be involved in a pedestrian collision is the 26 to 35 year olds, followed by the 36 to 45 year olds and then the 46 to 55 year olds.

These three age groups account for 3 of the 7 pedestrians struck on B.C. highways every day and pedestrians account for 14% of Canadian traffic fatalities.

Old enough to know better? One would certainly hope so!

According to ICBC, 57 pedestrians are killed and 2,600 are injured each year in collisions, with 78% of incidents happening at intersections.

Yes, the laws say that vehicles and pedestrians each "own" their allotted portions of the highways and must look out for each other. This doesn't always happen, so drivers and pedestrians alike need to take more care during the twilight and hours of darkness to stay out of each others way.

Pedestrian safety depends on the ability to be seen. This can be a challenge as most pedestrians think that they are much more visible than they really are. Being over confident of your conspicuity can lead to taking risks where you cannot win.

While the courts have decided that a pedestrian might choose to dress in black without being negligent, they must factor the ability to be seen by others into their decisions when they are on the roadway.

One cannot depend on light coloured clothing for protection during periods of low light. Studies have shown that pedestrians dressed in black with small reflectors at ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows and shoulders are recognizable, and avoidable, well before a pedestrian dressed completely in white with no reflectors.

This phenomenon is known as biological motion.

An interesting consideration is that low beam headlights are aimed to the right to keep out of the eyes of approaching drivers. You will not be as well lit while walking from left to right across the front of a vehicle.

Perhaps the best defensive attitude for a pedestrian is to always assume that drivers cannot see you.

When the paths of drivers and pedestrians must cross, be sure that you are well aware of each other and communicate your intentions to avoid a collision.


In Oceanside there are far too many pedestrians not wearing reflective clothing and insisting on wearing black clothing.  They do not give a driver a chance to see them. I wish they would be held responsible and have to wear a reflective vest. This is specially in our area with no sidewalks on most of our roads. We also feel the same about cyclists so many without reflectors or reflective clothing.

Here's something that drivers and pedestrians alike would be wise to consider, and I think it's related.

The structure of modern vehicles is designed to maintain the integrity of the passenger compartment - which requires thicker A pillars (and B pillars - when's the last time you saw a 'hardtop'?) and C pillars. Plus which, they've gone from an airbag in the steering wheel and an airbag in the dashboard to modern designs with a dozen or more airbags designed, to cushion and protect vehicle occupants during the milliseconds of physical violence when a crash occurs.

Meanwhile, for reasons of fuel economy and styling, the rake of the windshield is also much more pronounced in modern cars.

The downside of this, is that many vehicles have quite massive A-pillars, and these can make it particularly hard to see pedestrians, particularly if they're near the diagonally opposite corner of an intersection. So, just because you have seen the vehicle, doesn't mean that you have been seen. And of course, at night, it's much more of a challenge for a pedestrian to make eye contact with a driver anyway.

According to ICBC, 57 pedestrians are killed and 2,600 are injured each year in collisions, with 78% of incidents happening at intersections.

Well, I've said it before here and I'll say it again. This whole idea that we apply here in Canada and the US, which is that pedestrians have some sort of 'right-of-way' at intersections was probably a nice idea when they thought it up, but actually an aware pedestrian will deliberately choose to cross mid-block in many cases, because it's safer, actually. It just puts the onus on the pedestrian to avoid conflict, rather than the driver.

But I wonder how many parents - or school teachers - ever teach their kids how to cross the road safely?

I walk daily and it is time for my high vis rain jacket.

I have a 2019 Nissan Rogue. I'm impressed with the warning system that senses pedestrians, cyclists and cars nearby. I understand it will apply the brakes if I'm not attentive to something stopped in front of me.

Of course there are still pedestrians and cyclists who claim their part of the road way. I wish them well in a contest with a distracted driver

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

There's an asterisk after all of the safety feature descriptions on Nissan's web site. In this case it says:

Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection cannot prevent accidents due to carelessness or dangerous driving techniques. It may not provide warning or braking in certain conditions. Speed limitations apply.

The trouble is, the site doesn't tell you what those conditions are. I sure hope that they are explained clearly in the owner's manual and that people actually take the time to read it.

A bit of digging finds a bit more information on how the system works, but it still doesn't explain how it could fail.

According to the AAA, these systems are not that great at doing what they are supposed to.

Here's an overview of just how difficult it is for ADAS to detect pedestrians and react correctly from the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering.

It will help, but ultimately the driver still has to pay attention and be ready to act and react accordingly.

I am a frequent pedestrian, age 75. Thanks, I think I will look into the reflector idea.

There is one other tactic I use. Whenever there is a possibility of a vehicle and myself trying to occupy the same space at the same time I confirm my safety with eye contact before proceeding.

The biggest problem I observe as a pedestrian is that virtually no drivers stop at a red light before making a right turn and many do not even slow down.

Vehicles making a left turn in front of oncoming traffic without first checking for pedestrians is another major issue that I see.

We walk every day and we never cross without eye contact and an "invitation" to cross. Works well. Drivers are more inclined to allow you the right of way when you make eye contact.

See too many pedestrians crossing the road clearly on the assumption that they have the right of way and without looking left or right.

Never assume that a driver has seen you and is going to stop.

A thank you wave always has a positive response!

At one time I had a negative view of hivis clothing. My thought at the time was the last thing I wanted was to make myself more visible to those idiots as now they knew where to steer. Fortunately age has changed that and I pack a couple of hivis vests in my vehicles and my jackets have strips on them.

I do wonder though why we don't see the signage from the 60's on the roads. "Walk on left facing traffic". I'm sure this would reduce accidents involving people walking on the shoulder of the road where there are no sidewalks.