Fall back this weekend! Daylight savings ends this weekend. This means the sun will be setting before most Bellingham offices let out for the day. For those of you who commute to work by foot, or for anyone else out walking as sunny days wane, please be extra careful. It’s good to expect rain and wind that can reduce drivers’ ability to see walkers even during the day, and follow these tips to prevent a deadly car accident.

  • Be prepared for adverse weather. This winter is expected to be wetter and colder, like last year. Wear rain proof outerwear. 
  • If you’re out hiking and see a sign noting that the trail is closed for the season, obey it.
  • Wear reflective gear (no need to wear lights so bright you need sunglasses) or a headlamp if you’re out on foot after dark, especially if you go for a run.
  • Keep an eye on the clock. If you set out for a walk without thinking you’ll be walking in the dark, you might not be prepared for it. Remember that cloudy skies make sunset seem earlier and sunrise later because of reduced visibility.
  • Walk with a friend, or make sure that someone knows where you’ll be walking and when you intend to return.
  • Take snacks and water if you’re going out to exercise.
  • If you know you’ll be out of cell phone service, you may want to carry a radio along. Make emergency contacts obvious to find on your phone and bring your ID.
  • Keep your senses free, and don’t walk distracted
  • Do not walk on or near railroad tracks. At the very least of the dangers, you could be cited for trespassing
  • Try to avoid crossing roads near the crest of a hill or around a blind curve. Drivers may not see you, and you could end up in a terrible accident a la Stephen King.
  • Stay on the sidewalk or interurban paths as much as possible, but be prepared to walk on the shoulder or road if need be. In that case, face in the direction of traffic and stay as far as you can to the side of the road. This is where reflective clothing and lighting really come in handy.
  • Avoid walking in areas where you know there may be distracted or drunk drivers, i.e. near bars and restaurants.
  • It bears repeating: be aware of your surroundings. Assume that drivers don’t see you. Because of the high incidence of distracting driving, it is all too likely that they don’t.

It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize that pedestrians don’t have the same odds for surviving a crash with a car as the car’s passengers. And unfortunately, recent increases in pedestrian deaths reflect some disturbing trends related to distracted driving. 

A highway safety report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in 2016 shows an alarming rise in pedestrian deaths:

Unfortunately, pedestrians and cyclists are at an inherent disadvantage when involved in traffic crashes: when a faster moving vehicle meets a pedestrian or a bicycle, the vehicle always wins.

In 2016, 5,987 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, 16% of all traffic fatalities. This is a 9% increase in pedestrian fatalities from 2015. 


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