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Earlier darkness spotlights C.O. road safety issues


With daylight saving time ending and winter on its way, Central Oregon is getting darker much earlier in the day. Drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and whoever else is on the street all share the responsibility of keeping our roads safe.

Driving instructors and police both warn against out-driving your headlights. Basically, a car’s headlights only show about 300 feet in front of it, and if a driver is going too fast, they might not see what — or who — in front of them. The driver wouldn’t have time to see it in time to stop and not hit it.

Other drivers’ lights also make it harder to see at night. Rather than staring at them, instructors such as Greg Owens with High Desert Driver Education suggest looking off to the side of the road.

“Look at the fog line, so you’re not staring at the lights,” Owens said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we drive at what we look at, and if we’re looking at the other lights, that’s were we’re going to go. “

Owens said the best thing drivers can do to be safe on the road is slow down and make sure all of their car’s equipment is working properly.

NewsChannel 21 wanted to find out if the number of crashes on the road go up as the sun goes down.

Police said there’s not a huge difference in the number of daytime and nighttime accidents after the change, other than the fact when it’s dark, you cannot see as well or react as fast.

Officials from the Bend Police Department and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office both said the main difference is the type of accidents that happen. For example, officials tend to see more DUII crashes at night, but severe crashes can happen any time of day.

Daylight saving time ended last week, adt November’s crash statistics are not out yet. In October, sheriff’s deputies responded to 94 crashes.

Even If officials see an uptick in accidents this month, they won’t show a direct correlation between earlier darkness and crashes on the road.

“To determine how daylight saving time relates to any increase in motor vehicle crashes would be difficult, because typically daylight saving coincides with some of our winter driving,” Sgt. William Bailey said. “So whether it be rain, snow or ice, those types of crashes can help skew that number.”

What can you do to drive safely?

Officials suggest drivers follow traffic laws, don’t get distracted by their cellphones or anything in their cars (such as a pet) and again, not out-driving your headlights .

Pedestrians have a role to play in road safety, too.

“During these low-light conditions, pedestrians and bicyclists, they don’t want to assume that other people can see them,” Bailey said. “Being well lit, using light-colored clothing, considering the route they take to and from work, and maybe not using the busiest roadways in Central Oregon can help minimize some of those risk factors.”

Overall, whether you’re driving in the daytime, nighttime, in rain, sleet or snow, police and driving experts agree, the key to driving is to slow down and pay attention.

Find more tips on safe driving practices here.

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