Easier to see, harder to hurt!
The Canadian Armed Forces spends a lot of money on camouflage and stealth technologies to ensure their personnel and equipment are harder to see in operational theatres. This is a very important safety strategy; because in hostile environments, the easier you are to see, the lower your chances of survival.
While maintaining a low profile works well in a theatre of operation, the last thing you want is to be hard to see when you ride your bike to work. Visibility is an extremely important safety issue. Every year, people die or are badly injured because they fail to ensure they are easily seen while exercising outdoors.
Drivers across Canada find themselves sharing the roads with an increasing number of people who commute to and from work such as cyclists, rollerbladers, runners and walkers. While this is great, it does create some safety concerns especially in low or no light conditions.
Many people who exercise on or beside the road can be hard to see. Under the right conditions, some of these folks can be nearly invisible – a recipe for disaster especially on busy roads. At the same time, cyclists and pedestrians are often put at risk by people who drive too fast, or who drive while talking on their cell phones. To make things worse, most Canadian commuters spend half the year travelling in low or no light conditions on road surfaces that can be made unpredictable by heavy rain, loose gravel, freezing rain, snow and ice.
For all these reasons it makes good safety sense for physically active commuters to increase their visibility. The following are some practical options to increase your visibility when you exercise:
- Wear brightly colored clothing. Yellow is the most effective non-fluorescent color during the day time; at night, reflective materials in red and yellow work best.
- Wear clothing or shoes with reflective strips. Reflective strips on moving body parts such as arms and legs are particularly effective.
- Clip a safety light to your backpack.
- Carry a small flashlight.
- Wear a head lamp.
- Wear a reflective safety vest or belt.
- Get a bike light. Biomotion lights are especially eye catching.
- Use reflectors. Put them on your bike, rucksack, rollerblades, etc. You can even find reflective decals to put on your skin, clothing or equipment.
Research has shown increasing your visibility is a very smart investment, because it doubles the time drivers have to avoid a collision. When you exercise on or near the road, remember that just because you can see the oncoming traffic doesn’t mean the oncoming traffic can see you. Increasing your visibility is your responsibility. While it might cost you a few dollars, it just might save a life.
You can contact your local Health Promotion office to see if they have any high visibility safety belts they could issue you.
Exercise is Medicine!
Dr. Darrell Menard OMM, CD, Dip Sport Med
Strengthening the Forces, the Surgeon General’s Health Promotion Program
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