In addition to checking the batteries of smoke detectors, the end of Daylight Saving Time is also a reminder to modify our habits on the roads. The time change of turning back the clocks one hour on November 6th means different levels of light and darkness in our daily commutes. The decrease in daylight hours can make it harder for motorists to spot cyclists, school children, and others out walking after dark. Glare from the sun may also pose a challenge to drivers in the morning and afternoon hours.
Although the seasonal change presents special challenges to road users, it’s important to keep an eye out for bicyclists and pedestrians year round since some commuters travel by bike and foot even during New Jersey’s frigid winter months.
Here are a few simple suggestions to help everyone stay safe through this colder, darker season:
- Slow down and eliminate distractions. During the evening hours, you need more time to see pedestrians and bicyclists in your path. Also, don’t drive distracted or impaired. Any behavior that slows reaction time increases the risk of a crash.
- Clean your windows well. Especially as mornings become frosty, get to your car a few minutes earlier to clear off all your windows and mirrors thoroughly of snow and ice. Make sure your defroster and windshield wipers are in good working order and replace washer fluid as needed. Be sure to clean the inside of your windows too, as sun glare is amplified through dirty windows.
- Keep sunglasses in the car for unexpected glare.
- Always watch for pedestrians and bicyclists. Understand that people who are walking or biking bundled up may not be able to hear or see you as well when wearing hoods and hats. Slow down for bicyclists and pedestrians and always give them extra space when passing.
Bicyclists and Pedestrians:
- Make yourselves more visible. As a pedestrians carry a flashlight and wear light colored, reflective clothing. Bicyclists should wear high visibility attire. New Jersey law requires bicyclists to equip their bicycles with a white headlight and a red rear light when riding in the dark. Reflective tape is also a great investment.
- Ride with traffic and in the streets. Drivers aren’t looking for bicyclists on the sidewalk or those going against traffic. With the lower visibility, they are even less likely to see you on the streets.
- Use marked crosswalks as a pedestrian and cross at signaled intersections whenever possible.
- Never assume that the driver of a vehicle sees you, even when you have the right of way. Give traffic an extra look before crossing at intersections. Walking toward traffic, especially if there are no sidewalks, allows you to see the cars approaching you and to make eye contact with the drivers to assure that they see you.
However you get around this fall and winter, please be safe and look out for one another as you share the road.
Special thanks to the League of Michigan Bicyclists for contributions to this article!