British Columbia

Rainy nights, deadly streets: Winter months see spike in pedestrian fatalities

November is one of the worst months for pedestrian fatalities in British Columbia with dark nights, slippery roads and low visibility.

Pedestrians over the age of 50 most likely to be involved in fatal accident

Rainy winter months are the most dangerous for pedestrians, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. (The Canadian Press)

November is one of the worst months for pedestrian fatalities in British Columbia with dark nights, slippery roads and low visibility raising risks. 

According to numbers from the B.C. Coroners Service, the winter months see some of the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities. More than 40 per cent of accidents that injure or kill pedestrians occur from October to January. 

Sandy James, former planner with the City of Vancouver and executive director of advocacy group Walk Metro Vancouver, said weather conditions across the Lower Mainland make the roads more dangerous than people realize during these months.  

"We are in very unusual conditions with very tall trees, dark nights, a lot of rain and it's difficult to see everyone," she told CBC guest host of B.C. Almanac Dan Burritt.

B.C. Coroners Service say they do not yet have any numbers on how many pedestrians have been killed or injured this year. On average, 7.2 pedestrians are killed across the province during November. 

Average number of pedestrian deaths per month, 2010-2016 (B.C. Coroners Service)

Increased risk

A recent survey released by ICBC revealed that nine out of 10 drivers worry about hitting a pedestrian at night, particularly in wet weather, while eight in 10 pedestrians don't feel safe in those conditions.

And rain is the worst offender — even more dangerous than snowy conditions in many ways, James said.

"We get no reflectivity at night or even snow to slow folks down," James said. "We actually had less pedestrian accidents and fatalities last year during the real cold because people weren't out."

Pedestrians over 50 are the most likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

"A senior generally has a bit of a slower reaction time and slower walking than a lot of the pedestrians signals and widths of intersections will allow," James said.

Across the province, between 2010 to 2016, 61 per cent of pedestrians killed were over the age of 50 and more than a third were over 70.

Slow down, be visible

On the vehicle side, James said a number of changes are needed to improve road safety for all.

Lower speed limits, shorter crossing distances for pedestrians and more attentive behaviour from drivers would all have a positive impact, she argued.

As for pedestrians, being visible is key.

"One of our problems is that we all wear black," she said. "Think about a couple of [reflective] dots or having a small reflective flasher on your bag, it will make all the difference."

Various RCMP detachments around the province have been handing out reflective arm bands and stickers to pedestrians as part of a safety campaign in the past month.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from B.C. Almanac.