Pedestrian Visibility at Night

Pedestrian at NightI read an article recently about conspicuity for police officers working on the highway. It suggested that the reflective vests and jackets that we use to stand out and be identified by drivers at night were not very effective. A driver had to approach closely when using low beam headlights to see a reflection, and the reflections that were seen did not immediately suggest that what the driver was looking at was a pedestrian.

The problem with low beam headlights is that they initially illuminate the area of a pedestrians feet and by the time they reach the mid and upper body, it is too late for the driver to react to what they are seeing.

Tests in a driving simulator produced an even more surprising result. 60% of drivers who were warned that a pedestrian would appear during the simulation failed to see them on the roadway in time to avoid colliding with them. Often drivers report that the first indication that they had of a pedestrian being present on the highway is when they heard the sound of the collision with them.

Looking at the view from the pedestrian's perspective, researchers found that pedestrians all felt that they were more visible to drivers than they actually were.

From Neil Arason's book No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads:

An Australian study found that drivers noticed only 5 percent of plain-clothed pedestrians in the most challenging conditions (low beams, black clothing, glare), whereas they recognized 100 percent of pedestrians who wore reflective clothing in areas where their body moved.

The bottom line? If you are a pedestrian on the highway at night, wear something light colored with reflective markings in the places that your body moves such as wrists and ankles. Biological motion is very effective protection.

Use the sidewalk, or if a sidewalk is not present, stay as far to the left of the roadway as possible. These rules cover all pedestrians in British Columbia.

Never cross the highway unless you can clear the travelled portion well before the approching vehicle nears you unless you are certain that the driver will stop. Better still, wait until the driver sees you and has stopped.

If you are a driver that is purchasing a new vehicle, consider one with forward collision warning or automatic emergency braking. These systems, properly used and maintained will help you avoid crashes.

Walk to stay alive. Regardless of being right or wrong in terms of right of way, the pedestrian is always the loser in a collision.

A similar situation can occur with moose on the road, at night, in the rain.

Several years ago, driving at night, in the rain, North of Fort St John.

With high beam from a distance, I thought I saw the legs, of two men crossing the highway, so slowed down.

When I came closer it was a bull moose.

In the rain, the wet black upper body ‎absorbed the headlights.

What I saw was the lighter brown strips on the legs. What registered in my mind, from a distance, was two men one behind the other‎.

When I came to the moose, he just looked me and left the road.

I am also amazed at how many drivers do not use their head lights or running lights, in the late evening at dusk.

Also how many do not realize, they are‎ driving with high beam.

It would be nice if this could be published in the local paper and mentioned to students at schools and maybe a few walkers would see the light and wear vests. I too have had many anxious moments especially at night and rainy days. I think many seniors would benefit if brought to their attention.

We always have reflective wrist bands when we are out walking at twilight.  We have had drivers tell us that the wristbands are very effective. We bought them from Ono in Nanaimo.

Could those wristbands be available in Qualicum Beach or Parksville, maybe the community police could sell them? They easily fit in pockets before going walking and easy to put on.

I believe that some place like Canuck Tire or MEC will have small high intensity lights (they may even flash in some cases) that can be easily attached to any of the zippers on an outdoor jacket, to make pedestrians more visible to drivers.

If someone can provide a source for these, then great - the websites for both those companies are a waste of time. And searching the internet for pedestrian flashing lights don't work ... 

I am am an aging boomer and can still remember lessons from "Elmer The Saftey Elephant" while in Elementary school back in Ontario. Kids are taught the basics re crossing roads saflely and to always walk on the left, (where no sidewalk is available) facing oncoming traffic.

I live in a semi-rural area north of Victoria and am continually astounded by the number of pedestrians I see walking or jogging along the right side of the roadway (day or night) with their backs to traffic - some even with head phones or earpieces on. 

Not sure if such a program exists here in BC schools but from what I have seen, its not just the youngsters who need to be educated on pedestrian saftey. 

Every highway in B.C. from the 50's to sometime in the 70's had signs near every community and along the highway saying "Walk on Left Facing Traffic". The B.C. Motor Vehicle Act section 182 (2) still states that one is to walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.

This was taught to us in grade 1 when I started in 1946. We also got lessons on traffic safety as a lot of us kids in grade 1 did ride bikes to school.

Unfortunately as it does not involve cell phones, speeding, seat belts or impaired driving it is never enforced.

My first job I took an Oath to enforce the Forest Act of B.C. and I was not given the opportunity to pick and choose what I wanted to enforce. I was required to enforce the entire act. Today I am sure some cops do not even know the MVA.