There is an alarmingly high rate of nighttime collisions in Ontario and this can be attributed to numerous factors pertaining, not only, to the pedestrians and motorists involved, but also to the conditions of the road. Although there are 75% less vehicles and pedestrians on the road at nighttime, dusk, and dawn, 50% of general collisions and 70% of pedestrian collisions occur at this time of the day. When these collisions do occur, it is all too often the case that police officers are not adequately trained in nighttime photo calibration, which results in misleading police photos. Moreover, many law firms do not attempt nighttime reenactments and are not aware of the requirements that need to be satisfied for an accurate reenactment. This, of course, can have adverse effects on the evidence and can compromise the client(s)’ case(s).
This over-representation of nighttime collisions in motor vehicle accidents is something that can result from the false sense of security that Pedestrians might feel, due to a false perception of being visible to drivers at nighttime. This can be attributed to the fact that they, themselves, are usually able to easily see approaching headlights along with sidewalks and nearby objects. However, this is not the case for motorists, who have significantly more limited visibility. It is crucial that pedestrians be mindful of this and wear reflective gear when walking at nighttime. Retroreflective tape, in particular, is an extremely effective way of increasing conspicuity at nighttime and under low-light conditions, and helping motorists in identifying pedestrians.
While pedestrians should be advised to do their part in ensuring their safety, nighttime collisions can also, most definitely, be attributed to inadequate roadside lighting. Many Ontario roads have deficient lighting, which serves to reduce the visibility of drivers. In fact, it should be noted that proper road lighting is actually more helpful than headlights as it provides the contrast that is required for detection; a dark-clothed pedestrian will be more visible on a will-lit road. In fact, providing proper road illumination is looked to as the most important crash modification factor for nighttime motor vehicle accidents.
It goes without saying that personal injury lawyers must also be more proactive in visiting the collision sites and creating reenactments when building cases for their clients. Lawyers would be well advised to match all conditions of the incident in regards to the pedestrian’s clothing, vehicle headlight type, ambient lighting, weather conditions, snow ground coverage, and moon phase and position (for rural roads) for an effective nighttime reenactment. Calibrated nighttime photos and videos have proven to be extremely effective in the mediation process and in court as it, essentially, brings the trier of fact to the scene and enables him/her to make a proper assessment. With more accurate reenactments, victims of collisions can feel more assured that their case will be presented fairly.
It is imperative that the prevalence of nighttime collisions be reduced, and this can be done by educating members of the public about the protocols they should follow as pedestrians and motorists, and by educating members of the legal profession about accurate accident scene reenactments so that, if a collision does occur, they can assist their clients in reaching the most effective and efficient solutions.