FIRE SMART: Be careful out there

Think about safety when driving, walking or cycling throughout Vernon

KEITH GREEN

Special to The Morning Star

I had other ideas for our December column, but a recent troubling near-miss made me want to share this story with all of you with the hope that you read it and take time to think about the message, especially given the time of year.

While driving home from work the other night, I wanted to stop in at the in-laws to say hi as they don’t live too far from the station. It was a typical dark, dreary night, with a foggy mist bearing down below the street lights all too common this time of year here in Vernon.

During my wait to turn left off one of the well-lit main thoroughfares on to one of the darker side streets, my focus was directed towards the oncoming traffic.  After probably 30 seconds, there was a reasonable opportunity to get through the bank of traffic coming my way before the next set of cars arrived.

I proceeded to turn left off the main street and as the nose of my truck travelled into the faded white paint of the crosswalk of the side street, I suddenly noticed a pedestrian less than two feet from my front bumper. I slammed on my brakes and was fortunate enough not to hit the person. The only thing that prevented me (and the pedestrian) from being involved in a tragic accident was the fact that the pedestrian turned to look at me at the very last second.

To my recollection, the person was wearing a dark hoodie with the hood over their head and other dark clothing that made the pedestrian virtually invisible until turning to  look at me. I was both thankful and shaken the pedestrian’s face appeared with enough warning to avoid the accident. However, I drove away thinking, “What if?” A scary near-miss for sure and this mundane left-turn could have been a life-altering event for both the pedestrian, myself and both our families in an instant.

Having worked in emergency services for many years, I’d like to think that I am extra cautious while driving, cycling or walking because I have seen the results of some horrible accidents, some that are forever etched in my memory. That said, this near-miss was a great reminder even for someone who has seen many unfortunate circumstances.

Our crews, along with our emergency services partners in the B.C. Ambulance Service and RCMP, attend hundreds of accidents each year. Many of those accidents will occur in the next few months as snow and ice conditions make winter driving difficult and often dangerous.

With all of this in mind, we would like to provide all of our readers and citizens some safety tips that we hope can help keep you safe this holiday and winter season.

1. Wear reflective clothing or bring a flashlight when out walking, or running at night. Make yourself visible to everyone around you. Don’t assume vehicles will stop. Assume they won’t and proceed with caution when crossing streets or crosswalks.

2. If wearing earphones with music playing from an electronic device while out walking or running, keep the volume low so you can still hear traffic around you.

3. Slow down and exercise patience while driving in winter road conditions. Do not pass people who are exercising common sense and travelling at slower speeds due to road conditions. Have good snow tires on your vehicle. Arriving at your destination safely should be your objective.

4. The Motor Vehicle Act regulations protect emergency workers — police officers, fire and ambulance personnel, tow truck operators and other emergency workers. When you come across the flashing lights of a stopped emergency vehicle drivers must slow down and pull over. Drivers found to be in contravention of these regulations face fines and penalty points.

Most accidents are avoidable with common sense and a little preparation. Please consider this story when going out for a walk this winter or driving to see loved ones over the holiday season.

From all of us here at Vernon Fire Rescue Services, we wish you all a safe and happy holiday.

Keith Green is chief of Vernon Fire Rescue.