Think differently about being seen at night
It’s inevitable that you’ll be outside at dusk, early morning or at night. Are you an avid early morning runner or parent of a bus-stop kid? A cyclist who’s logging miles in preparation for a race or a late night dog walker? If you’re outside in low-visibility light, it’s vital to think of yourself as vulnerable to oncoming traffic. Even more so in foul weather.
Look at it another, easier way. Think of a time when you were behind the wheel, and something - anything - darted in front of the car. When you’ve seen something just in time to make a correction and avoid a potentially fatal accident, it makes a big impression. You’re shaking. But then you gather yourself, carry on, and that feeling of terror passes. Now imagine every time you’re outside in low visibility, every car sees you just in time to make a correction and avoid an accident. But this time, you’re the one at risk of getting hit.
Injuries to runners and cyclists are often made more tragic because they may have been easily prevented. A pedestrian or cyclist will always lose in an accident with a car, no matter what. The potential damage a person will likely suffer is reason enough to take steps toward prevention. Car drivers aren't watching for us so it’s vital we look out for ourselves.
Assess your brightness factor
When you’re out in the early morning or dusky, dark night, how well can an oncoming driver see you? Are you wearing clothing or gear that makes you visible to drivers? Is it something that sets you apart from the light pollution and other distractions drivers have to deal with in the dark?
Sportswear manufacturers often include some reflective material on their products. Silver piping on running shoes, a sliver of shiny stuff on jackets, a patch of reflective material on hats.
Consider all of this a good start, but don’t rest easy and assume it’s enough. In the dark, a person can never have too much reflectivity.
Think about how you’re seen to oncoming traffic. Are you a moving patch of shiny material?
Or the unmistakable outline of a human, immediately recognizable to oncoming traffic and leaving more than enough time to slow down and pass you safely?
Be brighter for oncoming traffic
Bold reflective on your gear and clothing increases your visibility to oncoming drivers. The distance between you and the driver is the key to remaining injury-free. Many think that wearing white or bright fluorescent clothing increases the drivers’ ability to see them. It doesn’t. In the dark, a pedestrian wearing white clothing is likely to be first seen 30' away. Total driver reaction time and stopping distance at 30mph is 75'.
This is Bad Math. Not nearly enough time and distance to avoid an accident.
Trick out your gear with some Do-it-Yourself reflective material. It’s exactly as it sounds. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to increase the likelihood that you’ll be seen in low-light situations. It’s covered with tiny glass mirrored beads that reflect light back directly to its source. Light comes into the bead and it goes straight back out, not at an angle. Wherever the light came from, it shoots back. At the speed of light. (Very cool.)
Stick it on your clothing, shoes, hat, water bottle, bike frame, kids backpacks, dog leash – anyplace you can so that drivers can tell you’re a person, not a signpost.
Remember, it doesn’t matter where you’re walking, it matters what you’re wearing.