Because it is so hard to see cyclists and pedestrians along rural roadways at night, Washington County Public Health officials are donating safety vests through county police, fire and rescue departments.
“They are yellow safety vests with reflective strips,” said Elizabeth St. John, a health educator. “We now have youth-sized and adult.”
The giveaway started after St. John gave away safety vests in her tai chi classes and someone asked if they could have some for the Cambridge Police Department to give away.
St. John said there are 300 pedestrian fatalities and 15,000 injuries in New York annually.
“As a pedestrian, you can see a vehicle, but that doesn’t mean they can see you,” she said, adding that it’s even worse when wearing dark colors. “When someone is wearing dark clothing at night, drivers are 55 feet away when they see them. That gives them about 1 second to react.”
Additionally, as part of the Health Department’s pedestrian safety campaign, St. John said that officials are trying to educate pedestrians.
“Walk facing traffic so you can make eye contact with a driver,” she said. “But bicyclists should bike with traffic.”
When walking at dawn, dusk or after dark, make sure to be seen by oncoming traffic, St. John said.
“This includes walking on sidewalks or facing traffic,” she said. “If there is no sidewalk, wearing light-colored, reflective clothing, carrying a bright light and using crosswalks helps.”
Improving pedestrian safety is one of seven areas identified in the state’s highway safety program that aims to reduce the number of pedestrian crashes each year.
While Public Health officials have been giving bike helmets to low-income Washington County residents for several years, the reflective safety vests are available for anyone living in Washington County, regardless of income.
Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli is a reporter and photographer covering Washington County, arts and life, features and breaking news.
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