Forecast Calls for Rain and Long Nights – Fall Safety Preparedness

Seattle had one of the nicest summers in recent memory which seemed to last into early October. But after this week’s heavy downpours, windy conditions and pertually gray skies, it’s clear that summer’s over.

Those long summer days are turning into long fall nights and that trend will accelerate in just a little more than a week. The sun will set at 6:05 PM today allowing most of our afternoon peak hour commute to occur with the support of daylight. Seattle, you have one more work week to enjoy these conditions. Daylight savings time ends next Sunday when we ‘fall back’. Starting November 2nd, the sun will start setting before 5 PM.

Our collision data indicates that we have a tough time adjusting to these changing conditions. October is our worst month for crashes in Seattle and November’s not great either. By December we seem to modify our behaviors and collisions drop accordingly despite even longer nights and plenty of that wet stuff that falls from the sky that Seattle is known for.

Serious collisions by month

Serious collisions by month

A 2007 study by professors Paul Fischbeck and David Gerard of Carnegie Mellon University found that pedestrians walking during the evening are nearly three times more likely to be stuck and killed by cars in the weeks after the time change. The study found that it is not the darkness itself that leads to the increase in incidents but the adjustment to earlier nighttime. Pedestrian fatalities decline with each passing month as we adapt to the darker conditions.

With the time change right around the corner and Halloween just a week away (watch for kids!), here are a few tips to help everyone get from Point A to Point B safely:

1. Be visible. Take extra measures to ensure you can be seen when you walk and bike on our streets. Wear light-colored clothing and/or reflective gear so drivers can spot you.

2. Make good decisions when you walk, bike, or drive. Don’t drive distracted (anything from talking on your cell phone to adjusting your costume) and make sure you have a safe way to get home if you plan to party.

3. Take it slow. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. With speed, the frequency and severity of collisions increases.

4. Follow the rules. Drivers should know that every intersection is a legal crosswalk – whether there are pavement markings or not – so drivers should almost always stop for pedestrians. Pedestrians should cross the street at intersections or crosswalks where drivers expect to see you.

5. Always be alert on our streets. A crosswalk is not a suitable location to check your phone and it’s not a good idea to listen to music while bike commuting. Take an active role in safety by keeping your eyes and ears on the road.