Chilliwack RCMP Cst. Matt Wright hads out safety tips and reflective disks to pedestrians at the corner of Promontory and Vedder Road Thursday. The joint initiative between the RCMP

Recent road tragedies prompt call for pedestrian vigilance

With the return of the dark, rainy weather, Chilliwack’s SaferCity program is warning pedestrians to see and be seen.

With the return of the dark, rainy weather, Chilliwack’s SaferCity program is warning pedestrians to see and be seen.

RCMP members were on the street Thursday, reminding pedestrians of the importance being visible and attentive this time of year. They were joined by Mike Weightman, road safety co-ordinator for ICBC, and Samantha Piper, co-ordinator of the SaferCity program for the City of Chilliwack.

It’s critical pedestrians take special care this time of year, said Weightman. The number of crash-related pedestrian injuries jumps 86 per cent in November and December, compared to July and August, he says.

That’s why the SaferCity program is urging pedestrians to wear bright or reflective clothing while walking. Carry a light, or a reflective device, says Piper.

The warning comes on the heels of two recent road tragedies. Last Friday a two-year-old boy was killed in a Pitt Meadows shopping mall parking lot. And on Tuesday two seniors were struck and killed on a Coquitlam street.

In Chilliwack more than 40 pedestrians are injured every year, Weightman says. The severity of the injuries varies, but even a minor injury – particularly for a senior – can be life-altering.

On Thursday, the group was handing out small reflective disks that can easily be slipped around a button, attached to a zipper fob, or clipped to a child’s backpack.

But there are a host of other ways to heighten visibility in the dark, from reflective armbands to full-on reflective jackets, Piper said.

Technology has also made LED lights powerful enough to cut through the darkness, while still being easy to carry or wear, Weightman added.

But while being visible is important, it is also critical to be aware of the vehicles around you, he said. Pedestrians might have the right-of-way in a marked crosswalk, but that doesn’t make them invincible.

Keep your head up, make eye contact with drivers, and only proceed when it’s safe, said Weightman.

RCMP will be on the streets at a few locations in the coming days, helping to educate both pedestrians and drivers about the importance of being visible and vigilant.

To learn more about Chilliwack’s SaferCity program, go to www.safercity.ca

Here are ICBC’s tips for pedestrians and drivers:

For pedestrians:

•    Always focus your full attention on what’s happening on the roadway so you can see, hear and respond safely when you’re crossing the street. Remove your headphones, and put away your cellphone or other gadgets to make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected.

•    Make eye contact with drivers, so you both know you see each other. Drivers don’t always see you even if you see them.

•    Drivers may not always stop or obey traffic signals. Expect the unexpected.

•    Use designated crossing points and follow pedestrian traffic signs and signals.

•    Before stepping off the curb, look left and right for oncoming vehicles. Then look left again for vehicles that may be turning onto the roadway from beside or behind you.

•    Wear bright or light-coloured clothing. In dark conditions or in bad weather, wear reflective material on your clothes (sleeves, shoes, cap or jacket).

•    Where there are no sidewalks, always walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.

•    For drivers:

•    When you approach an intersection, scan left and right for pedestrians.

•    Be extra cautious and look out for pedestrians when making a left or right hand-turn.

•    Always yield to pedestrians at intersections. It’s the law.

•    If a vehicle is stopped in front of you or in the lane next to you, they may be yielding for a pedestrian, so be prepared to stop.

•    Be aware of pedestrians who seem unsure or who may not be paying attention. They might dart out or wander onto the roadway.

•    Before you get into your vehicle, make it a habit to walk around it to make sure no small children are behind your vehicle. Always watch for pedestrians when you’re backing up.

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