Here we go into another rainy dark, damp Metro Vancouver winter, which is also when the majority of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries happen. So far this year nine pedestrians have died on City of Vancouver streets, and 1,500 pedestrians are injured in 2,000 vehicle driver crashes in Metro Vancouver every year. The majority of those serious driver crashes, 80 percent, are at intersections.
The majority of those vehicle driver crashes with pedestrians occur between October and January. In Metro Vancouver 54 percent of all pedestrian fatal or serious injury crashes happen in four months.
This year Halloween is on a Monday and that evening sunset will occur before 6:00 p.m. Halloween night is the one truly international day of danger and death, as this study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found. By reviewing data spanning four decades, NHTSA found that pedestrian fatalities are 40 percent higher on this one night of the year.
The study found that children walking outside between the ages of four and eight years “saw a ten-fold (1000 percent) increase of deaths” on that one day.
But why? Children are using the road to access different houses, and do not have developed focus and attention.
A study done in 2017 shows that as children do not have a spatial sense of driver speed and vehicular distance until they are 12 years of age. In the study the vehicular driver crash rate was 8 percent with six year old children.
Add in wearing costumes and masks that lower movement and field of vision, and poor visibility in the early evening as small children go out trick or treating.
Some have advocated for having Halloween on the closest Saturday evening, and data shows that this is the safest night for children to be out with lower crash rates.That Halloween Saturday gives a 4 percent less chance of being killed on the street . Data shows that Friday as a Halloween day is the worst, resulting in 23 percent more deaths compared to other Fridays.
What else can be done? Metro Vancouver cities could host special events and ban vehicular driver traffic from neighbourhood roads for that one night. That is what New York City implemented this year, declaring one hundred streets car free from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for trick or treaters.
But in Metro Vancouver lowering vehicular driver speed increases driver reaction time and also lessens the severity of injury when a child or adult is hit by a vehicle driver. Not just at Halloween.
Even though the Provincial New Democratic Party have been in power for a good whack of time they still have ignored calls to allow the municipalities the right to limit speed limits in areas to 30 kilometers an hour. A few years ago the Union of British Columbia Municipalities unanimously supported a motion to ask the Province to do exactly this.
Instead municipalities that want to do this must pay education and for multiple signage installations per street, despite the growing evidence internationally that slower speeds make streets more sociable, save lives and serious injury and save money. Take a look at the City of Edinburgh where slowing road driver speeds to 30 km/h reduced fatalities and serious accidents by 31 percent and saved 60 million dollars in three years.
Until the Province responds by doing the right thing to allow municipalities to slow traffic down by neighbourhood areas, pedestrians need to stay to lit streets, wear bright clothing and carry reflection and flashlights, all items putting the onus of safety on the pedestrian, not the vehicle driver.
That has to change. Until we have a government interested in saving lives, enhancing sociability and saving millions of dollars in health care costs from serious injury, please be careful venturing out in these wet months associated with darkness and pedestrian death.