BURLINGTON — Whether you walk, drive or bike, the shorter days and longer nights make it especially important to see and be seen on the road. To help prevent injuries, the Department of Health’s Watch For Me VT program has launched Be Bright at Night, a road safety initiative that is distributing free reflectors and safety information for people and communities throughout the state.
A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found road-related injuries involving pedestrians and cyclists have been increasing. Data for early 2021 showed cyclist deaths rose by 5 percent from 2020, and more pedestrians were hit and killed in the U.S. in 2021, than at any time in the past 40 years.
“Most motor vehicle crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists occur at night,” said Allie Breyer of the Health Department’s Injury Prevention Program. “With fewer hours of daylight during the winter months we need to adjust our driving and walking habits accordingly. Wearing a reflector when you are out is one very easy thing you can do to stay safe.”
Studies have found that at night or low light, a person or bike without reflectors is first visible to a driver at a distance of 75 to 100 feet. With a reflector, people are visible at 450 feet. That difference means the driver has 10 seconds to react instead of two.
Starting this week and over the next several months, volunteers with the state’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) will hand out personal reflectors and educational materials at events and locations across the state.
Upcoming events where people can get free reflectors can be found at safestreets.vermont.gov/be-bright-night.
The Watch for Me VT program is part of the state’s broad effort to raise awareness of road safety issues and promote driver, biker and pedestrian safety. The Vermont Agency of Transportation funds the program, as well as offers driver safety tips and information through drivewell.vermont.gov.
In addition, the department’s Healthy Communities program provides tools and resources that municipal planners and officials can use to develop and improve policies that protect community members while traveling − such as maintaining existing sidewalks, adding street lighting at the pedestrian level to improve the visibility of people walking and biking, and strategize about infrastructure changes to maximize community health and safety. Under the state’s Complete Streets policy, municipalities must consider the needs of all roadway users.
“We all have a role to play in creating safe, accessible and healthy places for Vermonters to live, work, travel and play,” said Breyer.
Follow these tips for making simple, safe decisions while on the road:
Walking and Cycling — Watch for others; wear light and bright or reflective clothing and have a flashlight or headlamp; reflectors should be visible from the front and the back. A reflector should dangle since drivers notice movement more than a stationary reflection. Cyclists are required to use either a flashing or steady red rear light or a minimum of 20 square inches of reflective material facing to the rear; cross streets in well-lit areas with the best view of traffic; use sidewalks whenever possible; and at the bus stop, cross behind the bus or in the crosswalk.
Driving — Drive at a speed that leaves yourself enough time to react (a pedestrian hit by a car going 40 mph has an 85 percent chance of being killed. At 20 mph, the risk is reduced to 5 percent); never drive distracted, when drowsy or aggressively; do not get behind the wheel if you are under the influence of alcohol of drugs; come to a complete stop at stop signs and red lights; stay alert, always watch for bikes and pedestrians, and share the road.
Find tips for winter driving safety at healthvermont.gov/environment/climate/winter-weather.