Road Safety as the Seasons Change

Rainy day in the city at night, stream of cars on the road

Sleep and I are great friends, so I’m not one to complain about getting an extra hour of it; however there are downsides to the end of daylight saving time and fall. The days get shorter and the nights longer. For most people this means they are coming and going from work in the dark, causing road safety to become a growing concern.

November to January can be a dangerous time of year for pedestrians and cyclists, especially the week after daylight saving time ends. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that everyone is adjusting to the reduced visibility and poor weather conditions that often come with fall, and the assumption that both pedestrians and drivers tend to make — “if I can see them, they can see me,” which more often than not isn’t the case. In larger cities, the risks to pedestrians are often even greater. In Toronto, for example, a pedestrian is hit every four hours on average, and in 2016, someone died as a result of these events every 10 days. In Calgary, there have been over 3,800 collisions involving pedestrians in the last 10 years, 3,317 of which resulted in injury. These are deaths and injuries we can help prevent with the right tools and safety precautions.

So, how do you keep yourself and your family safe? Stay vigilant and become familiar with the time change conditions on the roads by following these simple steps:

Tips for Pedestrians:

  • Make yourself visible to motorists and cyclists both day and night. Snow, fog, rain and ice, in addition to darkness, can make it difficult for drivers to see. So regardless of the time of day, wear bright and reflective clothing. If you’re unable to do that try adding reflective stickers to your purse or children’s backpack.
  • When crossing the street, do your best to make eye contact with drivers as they approach and resist the urge to jaywalk. Drivers could be focused on looking for gaps in traffic to merge or turn and may not be paying attention to pedestrians crossing the road.
  • Be alert and keep your head up! Don’t walk and text. Regardless of your mode of transportation – legs or wheels – distractions are distractions. And don’t wear headphones so you can hear street sounds.
  • Talk to your children about the changing conditions. They’ll likely be coming home from after school activities at dusk, when visibility for drivers is at its worst. Encourage them to walk with a buddy, and to stay alert to their surroundings.

Critical mass bike ride in Rostock, Germany, December

Tips for Cyclists:

As a cyclist you fall into a middle category. You’re not a pedestrian, in fact, you’re usually required to follow the same road rules as vehicles, however you are more vulnerable than a car, truck or bus if in a collision.

  • Similar to pedestrians it’s important to be seen, so always wear reflective clothing, especially when cycling at dusk or after dark. Consider adding reflective tape to your bicycle as well as your shoes and helmet (and always wear a helmet!), plus make sure you have a good bike light.
  • Stay off the sidewalks. While you may feel safer there yourself, you’re putting pedestrians at risk by riding there. Authorities urge cyclists to abide by the rules of the road.
  • Keep your ears open. Riding with headphones presents an obvious safety risk since it compromises your awareness of cars and other warnings like shouts from pedestrians. Reduced visibility already requires your other senses to work harder than usual, there’s no need to add hearing loss to the equation. Make sure that your bike has a working bell in case you need to warn others, too!

Tips for Drivers:

  • Don’t drive with distractions! Driving requires your full attention. Time change takes a toll on everyone and playing on your phone, eating or fixing your makeup while driving will only make things worse.
  • Learn what it means to drive defensively – be aware of all pedestrians, mobility devices, cyclists, scooters, and the other vehicles around you.
  • Give yourself extra time, slow down and drive according to weather conditions.

Adjusting to new conditions can be tough, but if everyone uses a little more caution we can help keep our streets and sidewalks safe.