Our Days Are Shorter: Tips on Walking and Driving Safely

Photo of a crosswalk at night.

We don’t want you to be a headline.

In 2017, there have already been 155 pedestrian-related accidents (and 51 bicycle-related accidents) in our county. And with the recent change to Daylight Saving Time, our days are shorter and many of us have to walk on or across streets and busy intersections in the dark, on our way to school/work in the morning, or on our way home in the evening.

Be street smart and review these pedestrian and driver safety tips.

8 Tips for Safe Walking When It’s Dark (or Anytime) 
“No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic.”Code of Virginia § 46.2-92
  1. When walking at night, or in rainy or snowy conditions, you need to make yourself visible by using lights and reflectors and wearing reflective or bright-colored clothes. If possible, wear white, yellow or lime-green clothing. Red is not a good color to wear, since it looks black in the fading light.
  2.  Pedestrians are required by law to cross roads at crosswalks whenever possible, and drivers should expect to see pedestrians crossing at crosswalks and intersections.
  3. Crossing the street mid-block is not a good idea; most pedestrian crashes with cars occur at mid-block crossings, between intersections. Be alert.
  4. Before crossing, pedestrians must stop, look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT, and then over the shoulder for turning traffic.
  5. If you are a pedestrian you have the right of way, but you must make sure drivers can see you. Use eye contact and gestures to alert drivers when crossing roads from sidewalks, crosswalks, paths and driveways.
  6. Obey Walk/Don’t Walk control signals or countdown timers.
  7. Pedestrians are not allowed to walk on roadways when usable sidewalks are available. If there is no sidewalk or shoulder, you should walk as near as practical to the outside edge of the roadway, yield right of way to vehicles in the roadway, and walk facing traffic.
  8. When walking, especially when it is dark, put away your headphones and mobile device.
8 Tips for Driving at Night
“The drivers of vehicles entering, crossing, or turning at intersections shall change their course, slow down, or stop if necessary to permit pedestrians to cross such intersections safely and expeditiously.” Code of Virginia § 46.2-92
  1. Help pedestrians (and other drivers) see you in twilight by turning your headlights on before sunset and keeping them on for an hour after sunrise.
  2. Yield to pedestrians (and bicyclists) who are crossing the road  in a crosswalk, especially when turning.
  3. Aim your headlights correctly and make sure they’re clean.
  4. Dim your dashboard lights.
  5. Look away from oncoming lights.
  6. Slow down to compensate for limited visibility and reduced stopping time.
  7. Allow pedestrians time to cross safely.
  8. Even though the route may be familiar, don’t go on autopilot; stay alert.
Helping You To Be Street Smart

Our Fairfax County police officers are participating in the fall campaign of “Street Smart.” This program aims to reduce pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths across the region, educate drivers, pedestrians and cyclists about safe use of the roadway, and increase enforcement of pedestrian and bicycle safety laws and raise awareness about enforcement. This initiative spans across the roadways of Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland.

Through December, our officers will participate in “Street Team Activations.” You’ll likely see high visibility and enforcement from our area police departments. Not only will we enforce laws regarding bicycle and pedestrian safety, but we will also hand out safety literature and traffic statistics to people using our roadways. Be safe out there!

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