I recently encountered a heartbreaking scene on a main street in my neighborhood. A car was stopped and a group of people were comforting a woman. Her black dog was lying lifeless in the road. She had been crossing the street with her two black dogs at a crosswalk, but the driver had not seen them. Although sunset was still at least 15 minutes off, I noted with horror that the dog's body and the remaining dark dog were surprisingly difficult to see. I realized I could have easily been this driver, and with a black dog of my own, I could also have easily been this grieving owner.
Dusk can be a dangerous time. Extra vigilance is required to keep yourself and your dog safe. Because there is still some light at dusk, there is an illusion that you and your dog should be visible to drivers. But the light at this time of day wanes quickly, and the light may be fading by the time you return from a walk started in bright sunshine. Because contrast is impacted significantly as light dims, it is extremely difficult to see black or dark-colored dogs even before it actually gets dark. Additionally, depending on the time of year, dusk may coincide with busier traffic times as well, exposing you and your dog to greater risk.
The following safety tips should always be followed when walking your dog in the evening.
- Wear bright clothing or even a reflective vest.
- Outfit your dog with light as well. There are several options available including lighted collars and leashes, flashing LED tags, and reflective legbands. I use a lighed collar when we go out at night, but I also keep a flashing LED tag attached to my dog's harness at all times so I never have to remember to put it on him separately and he is protected if we are out longer than I planned.
- Keep your dog on a short leash. Even a well-trained dog can instinctually dart into the street if they see a prey animal or another dog and may not be seen by an approaching vehicle.
- Always keep your dog right next to your side when crossing the street, as it usually easier for a driver to see a tall person than a short dog.
- Even at crosswalks or locations where pedestrians have the right-of-way, never assume a drive can see you. Make sure approaching vehicles are slowing or stopped before stepping into the street. Make eye-contact or wave to ensure you and your dog have been seen.
- Be very observant of cars that are turning onto the cross-street you and your dog are crossing. Never rely on proper turn signal usage as an indicator that a car not planning to turn at an intersection; unfortunately, far too many drivers do not use their turn signals.
- Pay careful attention to cars that may back out of driveways, remembering that you are more difficult to see. Never let your dog pass driveways ahead of you, as most dogs are too short to be seen in many vehicles’ rear view mirrors.
- Cross streets at intersections whenever possible. Three times as many pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersections than at intersection.
Are there any tips that you can share for how to keep dogs safe at dawn and dusk?