COLUMN: What good is right if you’re dead?

NANAIMO – A walker or runner will never win in a confrontation with a motor vehicle, so the onus is on them.

If there is one thing football coaches try to ingrain in their players, it’s to keep their head on a swivel.

If you are constantly moving your head side to side, taking in all the action around you, the more likely you are to be aware of a potential hit coming your way and the better your chances of avoiding it.

The same can be said for pedestrians and drivers taking to the sidewalks and streets, respectively, these days.

Awareness of your surroundings is necessary any time of year, but especially so now when the sun sets at 4:30 p.m. and the normal weather pattern for days on end is rain and wind.

I’ve always been of the mind set that if you wait for a sunny day, or clear night to get outside for some exercise this time of year, you will be house bound until spring.

We don’t melt and once you’re wet, you’re wet. Just keep moving and you pretty much stay warm. In general, a little – or a lot– of rain never hurt anyone.

But it’s not the rain that’s causing the hurt these days.

Four pedestrian versus motor vehicle incidents have dominated the Nanaimo news lately, with one accident ending tragically in the death of an elderly man and a woman transferred to Victoria hospital in critical condition.

Vancouver has seen more pedestrians killed in 2012 (10) than in the last two years.

In the Nanaimo cases, each had its own characteristics with one pedestrian jaywalking, another in a crosswalk and at different times of day, including daylight.

But a reoccurring factor in police reports for the two accidents that happened after sunset was pedestrians were not wearing reflective clothing.

There’s no law that a person has to glow in the dark when out waking or running – other than laws of common sense and self preservation.

But being both a driver and a person who likes to get out for a walk or run after work, I can see both sides of an argument than usually breaks down to a blame game.

Drivers get fed up with runners who just blow through a crosswalk or intersection, assuming they’ve been seen and the car will stop.

Runners and walkers are tired of the disrespect shown to them by motor vehicle operators who are in too much of a hurry to stop and let them pass.

I’ve heard runners argue they’re in the right in the crosswalk and a driver should stop no matter what.

Being in the right is one thing, but it’s not much consolation if you’re dead because the car didn’t – or couldn’t – stop.

Two close calls come to mind when running at night. In both cases we were well into the crosswalk but drivers barrelled through, forcing me in one case to pull my wife, and the other my daughter, out of harm’s way.

I bet neither driver did it on purpose and were probably as shook up as we were. They simply didn’t see us despite the fact we were in the crosswalk, under street lights and wearing reflective clothing.

Yes, we were completely in the right, but it wouldn’t matter much had either vehicle hit us.

Both drivers and pedestrians have responsibilities and I know when I walk or drive at night, my head is on a swivel, making eye contact at every chance.

But when you get right down to it, a walker or runner will never win in a confrontation with a motor vehicle, so the onus is on them.

Be seen and you will be safe. Whether it’s a reflective vest, flashing lights or simply a flashlight, make sure that driver knows you are there.

Bite your tongue and take a deep breath when that driver doesn’t stop at the crosswalk for you. It’s only a delay of a couple of seconds. And besides, you’re out there in the dark and cold and wet for stress-relieving exercise.

Take the high road.

In the end it will be the safe road.

Nanaimo News Bulletin