Over the past year, our firm has experienced a surge in calls from pedestrian-related accidents. So when I read read the most recent annual GHSA Spotlight on Highway Safety Report (released Mar. 8, 2016), I wasn’t surprised to see that pedestrian fatalities were up by 28% in Washington State. A recent Seattle Times article also cited the GHSA report, which pointed out that pedestrian deaths increased from 32 in the first six months of 2014 to 41 during the same period last year, a 28-percent increase.
A couple takeaways that I find especially valuable: 1) pedestrian deaths are much higher at non-intersection related accidents (e.g., not waiting to cross at an intersection) and 2) walking at night is far more likely to lead to a fatality than walking at dawn or dusk.
Some of our firm’s most tragic cases result from nighttime accidents. Once the sun goes down, a lawful pedestrian or bicyclist might not realize how invisible they are to a drunk or inattentive driver. Cars kill more than 5,000 pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers each year. The lion’s share of those accidents occur after the sun sets. But those who enjoy an evening stroll, run or bike ride need to know that not all reflective gear are equal.
Consumer Reports tested several types of reflective gear: jackets, bike shirts, and an inexpensive safety vest. A Betabrand shirt with reflective thread was marketed as easy to spot. However, in a recent Consumer Reports test, the shirt wasn’t visible from 300 feet. This is the distance for a car to stop in time, if the driver is traveling at 60 miles per hour.
To stay safe in the night, one needs to wear gear that is highly visible in the front as well as the back. The more reflective, the better. While the $180 Gore Phantom Windstopper soft-shell jacket is easy to see coming and going, it didn’t outperform the Uline safety vest, with its big, bright strips. The Uline option is much less expensive, about $15 at uline.com.
To increase your visibility, consider donning a reflective ankle band or wristband. According to Consumer Reports, these are highly visible from 300 feet. When you’re moving your legs and arms up and down, it’s hard to miss you from a distance.
Finally, don’t pooh-pooh some of the lowest cost options like iron-on reflective tape. Iron on this tape onto your own and your kids’ backpacks, hoodies, and caps to gain a little more peace of mind. Taking these extra steps, while staying clear of the road whenever possible, can only help prevent a needless tragedy.