Being a Safe Pedestrian at Night

walking at nightMy life is usually mostly rural in character, but I've been visiting Surrey this week as both a driver and a pedestrian. Given the spate of vehicle / pedestrian collisions in the news lately it has been interesting to consider how they happen in light of my unusual surroundings. I think that a large component of the problem is haste with drivers and lack of attention by pedestrians.

Here, it seems, everyone is in a hurry. Travel is more often than not done at speeds in excess of the limit and stops are either not done at all or done because one is forced to. Beat the lights, make that turn, get there before the other driver and do what is needed rather than what is proper.

As I stood waiting to cross at an uncontrolled marked crosswalk last night a woman pulled up to the stop in front of me prior to turning right. She was already half way through the crosswalk and focused on finding the gap in traffic to her left. The first time she looked right toward me was after she started moving to get into the gap that presented itself.

Pedestrians often wander right out into traffic without making eye contact with drivers or scanning for traffic as they cross. Add that most of us were in dark clothing and some listening to music instead of their surroundings and it is no wonder that some are struck. It's almost like they are taunting the drivers to see and stop as required.

Small wonder that there are problems!

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It's not just the pedestrians, nor is it just the drivers. It is a potentially lethal combination of a false sense of self-importance and lack of common sense. The "me first" attitude is prevalent in both groups. Drivers that bully their way through traffic, cut others off just to be in front and then slow down, or turn off within a block; pedestrians that step out into traffic without looking; groups of joggers that take up the sidewalk and half of the curb lane; cyclists on the wrong side of the road; boarders and cyclists that switch between the sidewalk and the lane of traffic with no indication to others (and at speed). We have all seen it. We have all had to swerve to deal with it. These people don't care. As long as they can get their place in line at the coffee drive-thru, they are happy. After all, their lives are way more important than anyone else's. Unfortunately, you can't legislate stupidity.

I was thinking of some of those same issues driving yesterday, as I am sure many drivers are after watching the pedestrian carnage on the news this past week.

Some of my thoughts were about pedestrian responsibility as well.

Vehicles need lights, fore and aft, and even daytime running lights for increased safety, and trailers even need side markers.

I believe cyclists need head and tail lights at night ( but I may be wrong).

All, ostensibly to make the roads safer and reduce accidents ( or is the term still "crashes").

Yet pedestrians are allowed to skulk around at night, sharing these same roads, totally blacked out - wearing dark, non-reflective clothing, many wearing "hoodies" so they can't see sideways, and with ear buds at the max so they can't hear traffic, while they text their ways across intersections on dark and rainy nights, (while drivers are partially blinded by lights and reflections) : all with apparent impunity.

But not immunity from bumpers, it seems !

A driver wrapped in 6 000 lbs of steel can get a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, but a pedestrian can walk totally unprotected, but in an irresponsible manner and be "Fine-Free".

Something isn’t right with this picture.

If police can set up "roadblocks" to nab seat belt infractions, then how about a cross walk "road block" to smarten up some of these clueless pedestrians.

And if a pedestrian gets hit by a vehicle, even in a crosswalk, who is not paying attention, or is inappropriately dressed, I think there should be some degree of shared responsibility.


I have neighbours who often walk their dogs after dark at this time of year. They carry lights, attach lights to their dogs and one owner wears a reflective vest. There is no mistaking them at night and it is a small price to pay to maintain your own safety.

It is highly unlikely that the Motor Vehicle Act will ever be amended to require that pedestrians in general wear reflective material and carry a light.

I think that we, as pedestrians, are lulled by the fact that we can often see quite well when the driver of a vehicle cannot. We expect to be seen and don't take the precaution to insure that we are seen.

Victoria PD organized an operation to deal with jaywalkers in an area of their city with problems. As I recall, there was quite a furor in the Victoria Times Colonist that the police would choose to pick on pedestrians.