Pedestrian deaths raise calls for more reflective clothing

It's been a dangerous few days for pedestrians on Metro Vancouver roads, but one senior is pushing to change that by making reflective clothing better and more readily available.

'When you have a reflective product, you can be seen from low beam headlights at 125 metres'

A pile of personal belongings lies in the street mid-block on Broadway, west of Main. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A B.C. seniors group is calling on government to make reflective clothing better and more available, following the recent death of two pedestrians in Metro Vancouver.

An 81-year-old man was killed last week while jaywalking across East Broadway on a dark and wet night. Then early Tuesday morning a woman in her 40s was struck by a car in Surrey while jaywalking on 152nd Street.

Vic Leach  of the Sapperton Old Age Pensioners Association in New Westminster says he thinks one way to minimize those collisions is better reflective clothing.

"When you have a reflective product, you can be seen from low beam headlights at 125 metres, so that gives you enough time for a driver to see someone in the distance."

He notes European cities have managed to cut pedestrian fatalities in recent years by focusing on pedestrian safety, including developing standards for better reflective clothing for everyday wear.

He points to Sweden's capital city Stockholm, which has 2.2 million people, averages about nine pedestrian deaths per year, compared to Greater Vancouver with 2.5 million people, which has about 27 per year.

Stockholm, he also notes, has longer winter nights with worse weather, compared to Vancouver. According to ICBC stats just over half of pedestrian deaths in B.C. happen at night, he says.

Make it available

Leach says not only does he think reflective clothing could be better in terms of its standards, but also it should be easier for people who aren't police, fire or construction workers to buy it.

"There was very few stores that had anything for pedestrians that were out there. You have to go to specialty shops."

Leach is trying to draw attention to the issue by working with municipal leaders such as New Westminister City Council, with the aim of having them pass resolutions asking to the federal and provincial transportation ministers to adopt new standards for reflective clothing like those already in place in Europe.

He also notes a 2012 City of Vancouver pedestrian safety study showed that the average cost per pedestrian accident was $234,000, including police, ambulance, fire & rescue, emergency and regular hospital costing, rehab, insurance, and a number of other services.

At least one Vancouver fashion designer is already making a line of reflective clothing.

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