FILE — Celgar BE SEEN campaign team members (from left) Sandy Hinter, Mark Goebel and Rose Leslie visited the Selkirk College Castlegar Campus at the end of October to talk to students and staff about safety on area roadways. The company handed out more than 300 reflective armbands that are aimed at increasing pedestrian visibility. (Selkirk College)

John White: No excuse for dark highway walking without reflectors

The pedestrian in question was breaking all of the rules of pedestrianing.

I was driving out to Robson Hall the other night for some power yoga when an incident happened that prematurely escalated my adrenaline response.

It was dark and raining, and visibility was poor. I was going under the posted speed limit and was extra-alert for hazards on the road. Suddenly I recognized a form in my peripheral vision to the right of my vehicle. It was a person walking along the same side of the highway, wearing all black clothing and no reflective materials. My passenger-side mirror missed his shoulder by no more than six inches.

The pedestrian in question was breaking all of the rules of pedestrianing: He was walking with traffic, not against, so he couldn’t see me coming; he wore all dark clothing, he had no armbands or other reflectors and he was walking right on the edge of the drive path of the highway.

My heart leapt into my throat as I considered how close that near miss really was. Even though I was driving under the speed limit, the impact of a side-view mirror on an unsuspecting pedestrian could have been catastrophic.

I would definitely not have had time to react and swerve to avoid him, so it was total luck that there wasn’t an accident. Obviously, it would have been worse for the pedestrian, as he likely would have suffered serious injuries. But it would also have caused me emotional distress and intense guilt. I realize that’s not nearly the same thing, but it’s a reminder that not taking responsibility for your own safety can impact many other people. Think about your friends and family, and obviously the driver who would be scarred for life if there was an accident.

Sadly this was the fourth such incident that happened to me in the last three months. This is extra surprising considering Celgar launched an extensive awareness campaign covering pedestrian safety to prevent this exact behaviour last fall.

READ MORE: Celgar launches pedestrian safety campaign in Castlegar

READ MORE: Selkirk College partners with Celgar for BE SEEN campaign

Celgar took a very proactive approach to the issue by giving away 5,000 reflective armbands for pedestrians who walk along area highways, in conjunction with several local businesses and Selkirk College.

This was from the story announcing the safety program in November: “After the local pedestrian fatality from the snowplow last winter, Celgar employees’ hearts went out to the grieving family as well as the operator of the plow and they became even more committed to doing what they can to improve pedestrian safety in our community.”

Despite the fact there was a horrifying accident that resulted in the death of a local resident, many people are still walking the highways putting themselves at risk.

I implore you to sport some form of reflective material when you walk on the highways in the dark.

If you’re really desperate you can repurpose reflectors designed for bicycles and clip them to your clothing, or even carry them in your hands.

It’s such a simple addition and it could save you from serious injury or even death. Please encourage your family members who walk on the highways to be proactive in their safety.

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