A new crosswalk campaign asks pedestrians to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the road, but some people are concerned this change isn’t enough to ensure pedestrian safety.
Stop and Lock launched last week in anticipation of Tuesday’s Crosswalk Safety Awareness Day, but Norm Collins, president and treasurer of the Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia, doesn’t believe the campaign is “sufficient.”
“It’s nice to say ‘make eye contact,’ but if you’re a pedestrian with tinted glasses and sun (is in your eyes) how do you know if the driver actually sees you?,” said Collins. “Stop and Lock isn’t bad, but it’s not enough for me to feel safe.”
First and foremost, Collins said people should always ensure the vehicle is slowing to a complete stop.
A study published last year by Heads Up Halifax said that out of 406 respondents, 47 per cent believed pedestrians were unaware of their surroundings.
Bruce DeBaie, a spokesperson for the HRM, said the point of the Stop and Lock campaign is to ask pedestrians to do one thing so that they and drivers are safer.
“The suggestion to make eye contact is only one suggestion for people,” said DeBaie. “We’re asking people to do something small, but significant, and incorporate it into their daily routine.”
As part of the campaign, people posted crosswalk safety tips on social media for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card. Some posts echoed Collins’ concerns about the campaign’s main focus on eye contact.
I feel like the #headsuphalifax campaign puts the onus of crosswalk safety on pedestrians way more than drivers.
— Tenacious C (@eastcoastkto) November 15, 2016
I’m sorry, folks, I know the truth hurts, but pedestrians CANNOT “make” drivers see them. Do you realize how absurd that is? #headsuphalifax
— Corinne Gilroy (@corinnegilroy) November 15, 2016
This is the third Crosswalk Safety Awareness Day since it began in 2014. For the last two years, there were crosswalk teams throughout the HRM handing out reflective armbands, fact sheets, and fluorescent toques and mittens.
“It took a lot of time and money to organize these teams,” said DeBaie. “Instead of focusing on awareness again, we’re asking people to make a change in their behaviour.”
This year the HRM sent a small group to Alderney Landing to pass out flyers about the campaign during the morning and afternoon commuter rush. Local artist Christian Toth was commissioned to spend the day at Alderney painting his interpretation of the Stop and Lock campaign.
“The whole idea of having me here is to have some live art,” said Toth. “Live art stops people.”
Collins was also at Alderney Landing in the morning distributing handouts based on research collected by the Crosswalk Safety Society of Nova Scotia. However, he was concerned that this year’s attempt at awareness won’t reach as many people.
“Anything done to promote awareness is not a bad thing,” said Collins. “But I think what the city was doing last year was better … (they) had crosswalk captains out at the crosswalks with signs.”
As of September, there have been 131 pedestrian and vehicle collisions in the HRM.