I’m sure your inbox and timelines are full of well-meaning organizations urging you to “be safe and be seen” this time of year.
These are important messages, but it’s annoying how they usually focus on vulnerable road users. It makes sense intuitively, but that paternalistic approach fails to address the elephant in the room — or should I say the huge, powerful steel vehicles in our streets.
“Dress up like a traffic cone if you want to survive winter!” these campaigns too often say.
That’s why I was very pleased to see the latest statement from the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “‘Be Seen. Be Safe.’ Traffic safety during the darker days of the year,” the headline reads.
The full text is below. Notice how the focus — first and foremost — is on people who drive cars and trucks (after a solid first sentence that’s generalized to all road users):
Daylight savings time ended on Sunday, so it’s time to step up your visibility and make sure you’re doing your part to travel with care.
People driving can increase visibility by using their headlights, leaving a safe distance between vehicles to increase your cone of vision, and continuously scanning the environment looking for people walking and bicycling. Always be alert and practice extra caution during winter’s rain and low light.
Drivers need to:
– Remember to practice patience and slow down
– Stay in your lane and beware of drivers who dart from lane to lane
– Even though the route may be familiar, don’t go on autopilot; stay alert and ALWAYS watch for vulnerable road users such as people walking, biking and rolling
– Don’t touch your phone, eat, drink or do other things that are distracting. Remember, as of October 1, 2017 it is illegal to drive while holding or using an electronic device (i.e. a cell phone or tablet).
– Slow down at crosswalks and take care when making turns – even at a signal.
Did you know that as we age we have greater difficulty seeing at night? Night vision is the ability to see well in low-light conditions. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old.
Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can be compromised in the dark for all drivers, and the glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle can significantly impact a driver’s vision. Even with high-beam headlights on, visibility is limited creating less time to react to something in the road, especially when driving at higher speeds.
People walking and biking can increase their visibility during low-light hours by wearing reflective gear and using safety lights. When walking, keeping a small flashlight or using the feature on your phone is another helpful way to make sure you can see at night.
Did you know that you’re first visible to people driving from 500 feet away when you’re wearing reflective clothing? Compare this to just 55 feet away when wearing dark colors with no reflective gear or lights.
Nearly the entire statement is directed at motor vehicle users. That’s noteworthy. The words and messages agencies prioritized are windows into their values — and building blocks of the type of culture they hope to create.
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