Shorter, spookier days require pedestrian attention

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 10, 2016

 Walk to School Day, which promotes physical activity and safe walking routes for students, took place Oct. 5 this year.

Walk to School Day, which promotes physical activity and safe walking routes for students, took place Oct. 5 this year.

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METRO DETROIT — Although back-to-school season is now several weeks old, the shorter, colder and darker days — combined with the timing of Halloween — may provide additional challenges that drivers need to be vigilant about, according to pedestrian safety experts.

Walk to School Day, which promotes physical activity and safe walking routes for students, took place Oct. 5 this year. Seth LaJeunesse, associate director at the National Center for Safe Routes to School, said walking to school is an action that must be taken intentionally.

LaJeunesse said pedestrians should assess their walking environment and use high-visibility crosswalks — and crossing guards — when available to minimize the risks of getting hit by a car. 

If walking in dark conditions due to shorter days, kids should wear brightly colored clothing or reflective gear such as armbands or vests, he said.

“If at all possible, adults should accompany the children and teach and model how to look for traffic when crossing,” he added.

Meanwhile, LaJeunesse said drivers should yield and be vigilant, especially in areas where children and families are walking. 

“It really relates to the speed at which they’re driving, especially in neighborhoods and at schools,” he said.

According to AAA Michigan Public Affairs Director Susan Hiltz, motorists need to remember to look both ways before moving the car forward past a stop sign. She said some people fall into distractions due to a rushed schedule. 

“I think that most people want to follow the guidelines, but we believe that all drivers need to be reminded once in a while just to have better driving habits,” she said. “You need to take that extra care and caution behind the wheel, and when bikers or pedestrians are in the path, you need to be extra cautious.”

AAA asks young pedestrians to also stay focused on what is happening around them by forgoing headphones or occupation with a cellphone. They should also obey the law, heed traffic signals and signs, use well-lit crosswalks and make sure no cars are coming before doing so.

In terms of Halloween, AAA Michigan Public Affairs Specialist Gary Bubar said Halloween falls on a Monday this year, so alcohol shouldn’t be as big of a factor when it comes to dangerous drivers. However, he said many kids will fail to wear reflective costumes or carry flashlights, so drivers should stay on guard.

Bubar advised parents to set boundaries on trick-or-treaters regarding times and locations. For visibility purposes, children should wear face paint instead of masks, he said.

“Stick to the sidewalks whenever they can,” he added. “It’s the safest place to be.”

Find out more about Walk to School Day by visiting www.walkbiketoschool.org. Find out more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com.

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