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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Newspaper Article 2: Nighttime Visibility

Anytown-When a firefighter is battling flames, the smoke can get thick and dark. Being able to see his or her fellow firefighters can mean the difference between life and death. So to be seen, firefighters carry a flashlight. But that's not all. The stripes on their clothes are made of reflective material, which makes them more visible from further away.

Pedestrians can learn an important lesson from firefighters. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that almost fifty percent of all pedestrian fatalities occur between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and midnight. Most people think that if they can see the headlights of a car approaching, the driver in that car can see them too. But the reality is eight out of ten drivers who struck people at night didn't see them.

Studies show that pedestrians walking in dark colored clothing at night are first seen approximately 55 feet away-giving the driver traveling at 60 mph less than one second reaction time. A driver traveling at 60 MPH needs over 260 feet to stop safely.

Most of us probably think that wearing white at night would help. But experts say wearing white or light-colored clothing may not provide enough information for motorists to recognize, locate and react quickly to pedestrians and bicyclists. A person wearing white clothing isn't visible to drivers until they are well within 200 feet.

Reflective materials are more visible at night because instead of absorbing light, they reflect light back.

The Anytown Pedestrian Safety Coalition offers tips on how you can make yourself more visible at night. Wear reflective materials that outline the human form and carry a flashlight. If your winter clothing is dark, add something light-colored or bright like a scarf or reflective pin.

Be especially careful where cars are turning. If you're not sure that a driver has seen you, let the car go by before attempting to cross the street. Before you start crossing, make sure you look in all directions for oncoming vehicles and especially for turning vehicles.

The Anytown Pedestrian Safety Coalition is currently conducting a campaign to remind drivers to look for pedestrians; and to encourage pedestrians to use crosswalks and follow the pedestrian signal indications.

More information about this and other safety issues is available in English and some in Spanish. To volunteer or obtain more information about Anytown's Pedestrian Safety Campaign and other associated events, please call (Campaign Coordinator's name here) at (phone number) or (email address).