BC Coroners Service urges pedestrian safety

The BC Coroners Service is urging extra care in the wake of 13 pedestrian fatalities during the past five weeks.

VICTORIA – The BC Coroners Service is urging both pedestrians and motorists to take extra care in the wake of 13 pedestrian fatalities during the past five weeks.

The Coroners Service Research Unit has analyzed all 221 pedestrian deaths in the province for the past four years. The total number of pedestrian deaths this year is already slightly higher than for each of the past three years, with more than three weeks in one of the highest risk months still remaining.

“The research shows clearly that we are just heading into the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians,” says chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “During the last four years, almost one-quarter of the pedestrian deaths occurred in the two months of December and January.”

Most at risk, according to the research report, are the elderly. The death rate in pedestrian accidents for those aged 70 and over is almost triple that for any younger age group.

An in-depth review of the deaths from 2009 and 2010 found that almost 40 per cent of deaths occurred at intersections or crosswalks. The proportion is substantially higher in the Metro Vancouver region and for elderly pedestrians. For those crossing at intersections, almost two-thirds were crossing with a green light.

Safety tips for pedestrians:

• Enhance your visibility, especially after dark. Wear light-coloured or fluorescent clothing, or attach a light or a reflective strip to your clothing.

• Stay alert. Watch out for drivers turning into an intersection from left and right. Try to make eye contact with all nearby drivers before stepping out onto the street.

• Don’t assume a crosswalk or a green light at an intersection makes you safe. Ensure drivers see you before you step out from the curb. Safety tips for motorists:

• Stay alert. Don’t be distracted by activities that take your mind off driving or your eyes off the road. Watch carefully for pedestrians when approaching any crosswalk or intersection.

• Ensure all pedestrians have cleared the road before proceeding. The detailed analysis of all 2009 and 2010 pedestrian deaths showed that the number of pedestrian deaths peaked at lunchtime (noon to 2 p.m.)

and during morning and evening commuting times (6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.).

Alcohol and/or drugs were contributing factors in just under one-third of the pedestrian deaths. Alcohol and/or drugs were more likely to be involved in non-intersection incidents (39.7 per cent) than in those at intersections (22 per cent). (This could involve alcohol and/or drugs on the part of either the vehicle driver or the pedestrian.)

Vehicle speed and road conditions were not common factors. The road conditions were dry in 60 per cent of deaths, and the vehicle driver was driving at or below the speed limit in more than two-thirds of cases.

The average number of pedestrian deaths doubled on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, compared to other days of the week.