The autumnal equinox is just a few days away, and the descent into a darker season has begun. Because it’s dark outside, drivers have a harder time seeing pedestrians.
I know because a few weeks ago, I was nearly struck by a car during my morning run. She rolled through a stop sign and I was wearing gray clothing. Both of us could have been more careful. Fortunately, that short interaction didn’t end in disaster for either of us, but it reminded me to brush up on safety.
The changing seasons present a concern for Cache Valley police officers who answer the call when motorists and pedestrians clash. That can happen more frequently at night, when it is estimated that 40% more fatal accidents occur despite the fact that there is 60% less traffic on the road.
The good news is we can help prevent accidents, said Logan City Police Lt. Troy Thurston. He has been with the department for 30 years in addition to five years working with Utah State University police. Thurston recommends both drivers and pedestrians be proactive in keeping themselves and others safe. His biggest tip: Slow down.
“Take a little extra time in planning your commute to work or the park or wherever you want to go,” Thurston said. “Slow down and anticipate someone coming into the road. We want to make sure everyone stays safe. That’s our objective ... plan a little extra time to get where you’re going and be cautious.”
Students at Adams Elementary have been studying up on safety tips like those as part of Green Ribbon Week. School secretary Katie Hollingsworth said Adams’ students took a safety pledge at the beginning of the week and a received a green ribbon to wear on their backpacks. Kids reviewed a safety flier with their parents and have been practicing walking safely to school.
“I have two kids going to Adams and one of them rides a bike, so I think it’s important to the children and for the parents to practice safety,” said PTA member Emily Eastmond, who designed the pledge flier. “In it, we have different things we hope the kids will practice- walking on the side walk, using cross walks, looking both ways and not running across the street. We also have a bike rodeo planned and we will teach bike safety there.”
In case you are not up with the grade schoolers, Lt. Thurston had more safety advice for everyone. Pedestrians can and should wear bright colored clothing or reflective stripes. “Take a flashlight or a flashing beacon,” Thurston said. “Never assume a car or motorcycle can see you and yield the right of way.”
Thurston encouraged pedestrians to look both ways several times before entering a roadway. And if there is a sidewalk on either side of the road, use it. Avoid J-walking. Wait for the pedestrian signal, the walking man, to cross. It might be inconvenient to cross the street at an intersection, but a little inconvenience can add a great deal of safety.
If there is no sidewalk on either side of the road, state law indicates pedestrians should walk facing traffic. Thurston added that people walking in the road should be aware of their surroundings. Look up, make eye-contact, and if a car doesn’t seem to see you, get out of the way. Moving into the ditch or even into a snowbank might keep a walker from being injured. “You might get a little wet but you won’t be hurt and that’s the important thing,” Thurston said.
Scooter and skateboard users should also educate themselves about traffic law. Thurston said those riders should make sure not to dart out in front of traffic and to yield to slower pedestrians. “If you are riding one of those, anticipate a vehicle won’t see you because you are smaller and they are not expecting that,” Thurston said.
Bicycles operate under different laws than pedestrians, but some of the same general rules apply. Cyclists should wear bright clothing and lights. They should also be proactive about vehicle interactions, especially in poor weather or low light. For more detailed information on bike safety, please see Bike Utah’s website.
Thurston added that motorists can and should protect themselves and others from accidents. “It’s not enough to just look at the roadway in front of you,” Thurston said. “Make sure you scan constantly, on and off the side of the roadway. Again, when in doubt, yield.”
Obeying speed limits and allowing pedestrians to cross at crosswalks is not only helpful, but required by law, Thurston said. Most residential areas in Cache Valley have a 25 mph speed limit. The limit is even lower in school zones. Those areas have been the focus of speed enforcement. “When we do enforcement like a crosswalk sting, our objective is to make sure everyone realizes what is going on and remind them to be safe.”
“It’s far better to yield the right of way and prevent an accident than to strike someone,” Thurston said. “Take a little more time. Be more cautious and slow down. A little more patience on the drivers and pedestrians part makes for a safer and happier end of the road for everyone involved.”
For me, being safer means replacing a few batteries in my blinking lights and resurrecting my reflective vest, though is takes extra time. With fall coming in, taking time to reflect is a good thing. It helps everyone see a little more clearly.
Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at email@example.com