A FINNISH STUDY 
Excerpts taken from a Finish pedestrian road safety study. 

Accidents among pedestrians 
Pedestrian traffic is particularly prone to accidents in the dark. More than half of pedestrian deaths take place each year in the hours of twilight or darkness. 

The accident risk of urban pedestrians is at least 2-3 times higher in the dark than in daylight. Almost half of pedestrians injured on zebra crossings were again in dark or twilight. 

Road traffic victims rarely use a reflector 

When statistics were last compiled on reflector use amongst pedestrian victims in Finland, it found that none of the pedestrians killed in the dark was wearing a reflector. (This is in a country where reflector use is common ). 

Driving conditions in the dark 

Even at their best, car headlights create very little forward lighting. The range of dipped beam in particular is very short. 

A pedestrian seen from say 50 metres presents a small visual image. The time available to use one's senses is very short. Light clothing and the use of effective reflectors improve visibility by
increasing background contrast. 

 Visibility on an unlit road

Visibility on an unlit road depends primarily on the degree of reflectivity of the person and background, the power and direction of the car headlights, the weather conditions and the eyesight of the driver. (Most drivers nowadays drive at speeds which make it difficult for them to see other road users in good time). 

A driver using full beam will see a person on the road from as little as 200 metres away, (depending on their clothing) whilst a person wearing a reflector will be seen from 700 metres (in same
conditions). 

The full beam of an oncoming car can cut a persons visibility down to 40-45 metres in ideal conditions. While a pedestrian wearing a reflector in same conditions is visible from 100-200 metres.

For pedestrians, the visibility problem is somewhat different. There may be what seems to be sufficient light so they imagine the driver sees them easily. In reality, they can merge into a dark
background unless wearing something light. Walking on the side to face oncoming traffic is also recommended. BUT A REFLECTOR IS THE BEST WAY TO MAKE ONESELF SEEN IN THE DARK. 

Visibility on a lit road 

Not all road illumination is well done, and where it isn't the pedestrian needs to wear a reflector. (Lighting causes a patchwork of shadows. Doorways, shop fronts, trees, walls, buildings as well as other traffic all contribute to the changing background. In this environment a pedestrian can apparently appear from nowhere. A reflector is a constant reminder to drivers that other road users are present). 

 A driver's potential to see 

The headlights of an oncoming car, scratches and dirt on the windscreen, distance of the car in front, ageing eyesight (weakens night vision), headlights directed to high up (oncoming traffic) or too low diminish drivers own field of vision. As does dirty headlights. In a test driving on salted roads
decreased the effectiveness of car lights by 60 per cent. 

In poor weather conditions, a driver will spot a pedestrian from no closer than 15-20 metres. There's usually no time even to start breaking or give way (as most cars are driven too fast). 

The drivers potential to give way or stop 

No verge makes it likely that a pedestrian is in the car's path, which they always are when crossing the road. 

Reaction time to avoid collision is 1-2 seconds. For example a car travelling at 80 km/h proceeds 22 metres in one second and 44 metres in two. The later and more realistic distance of 44 metres is even in good conditions not enough to steer around someone if they are not wearing a reflector. (This takes no account of breaking, there wouldn't be time). 

In the same conditions a driver would need to have a further 35 metres breaking distance. (If traffic was coming from the other direction this luxury would not be available). This distance doubles on wet asphalt and quadruples on wet ice. 

Using reflectors to avoid accidents 

A retro-reflector refracts back light directed at it. (The brighter the car light the more effective the reflector). 

The best place to attach a reflector is at the ends of the sleeves, at the waist and close to the knee.
(American research has shown that reflectors attached to limbs are visible from significantly further away, 60-80 per cent, than those attached to other parts of the body). 

Removable reflectors attach to clothes with an easy-to-use mechanism that helps improve the pedestrians visibility from different directions. 

 CENTRAL ORGANISATION FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY IN FINLAND 
 Matti Koivurova 
 

  • ISO 9001 - CE quality 
  • Made in Finland
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