At this time of year there’s no escaping the encroaching winter, with days getting noticeably shorter from week to week.
Today’s sunrise time in Helsinki is 07:25, and it sets again at 18:53, giving a little more than 11 and a half hours of daylight to residents in the capital city region. A week from now, there will be less than 11 hours of daylight.
Meanwhile in Utsjoki, sunrise this morning is at 07:27 while sunset comes at 18:35, giving slightly more than 11 hours of daylight in the far north of the country. Just one week from now the sunrise time will be half an hour later, while the sunset time will be half an hour earlier, giving one whole hour less of daylight.
The fast changing light is one reason why today is national reflector day in Finland, to stress the importance for pedestrians and cyclists to be seen in the dark.
The campaign is spearheaded by the Finnish Road Safety Council Liikenneturva, at a dangerous time of year for pedestrians.
This year’s efforts will combine billboards, newspaper adverts and a social media campaign in 15 different cities; as well as events where partners including the police, Finnish Transport Agency Liikennevirasto, and the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment ELY will be giving out free reflectors.
The most hazardous time of the year
This time of year, from today until January, is not only the time of year with least amount of light, but it’s also the most dangerous months for pedestrians too.
More than 40% of all accidents take place in the darkest months, and research shows that many could have been simply avoided, by wearing a reflector.
“According to studies the most serious pedestrian traffic accidents are due to a lack of visibility, of not wearing a reflector” says Jussi Pohjonen, Senior Traffic Expert at the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi.
Rain and fog reduce a driver’s ability to see, especially in the dark. Also, a dirty windshield or headlights have an adverse effect on visibility, making it more difficult to see pedestrians or cyclists crossing the street.
“A driver’s ability to react will be greatly improved if pedestrians wear a reflector” says Pohjonen.
“In the best case, the distance of visibility will range about seven times further, depending, however, on pedestrian’s dress, current weather and having an unobstructed clear view in front” Pohjonen tells News Now Finland.
Matters of visibility however are not so straight forward in urban areas as on highways.
Buildings, busy streets, parked cars, shadows from trees and bushes, even bright lights from advertising can hinder a driver’s view.
As a result, even when people use pedestrian crossings, most accidents happen there between October and January when pedestrians don’t wear reflectors.
Wearing reflectors properly
A reflector is a simple tool, but to use it effectively you need to know how to wear it properly.
“When talking about reflectors, I’ve always said it’s not only useful for a pedestrian, but it’s useful for a driver to see as well” says Jari-Pekka Koskela, from the Finnish insurance company If.
“It does not help if a reflector is hanging from your back when a car is already in front of you” he says.
To wear reflectors properly, Koskela recommends to hang them in an area between leg and shoulder, on the front and the back.
“Better to be safe than sorry” he adds.
Schools teaching road safety
Finnish schools have also taken the issue of visibility very seriously for students, and teach the importance of using reflectors.
“We had a road safety week just at the beginning of term, in which reflector issues were reviewed, and again now when mornings and evenings get darker, we will again highlight reflector use, especially for younger students” says Linda Tuononen, a 5th grade teacher at Vierumäki primary school.
“We’ve also played a special hide and seek game with flashlights and reflectors to illustrate reflector’s efficiency for students at school camp” she tells News Now Finland.
While the schools keeps doing a good job teaching the benefits of reflector use, If insurance company’s Jari-Pekka Koskela sees that national campaigns have also been working.
“Our studies show the increased use of reflectors in recent years”.
Clothing companies have also started to use more reflective materials in their production methods, which Koskela thinks may have increased the amount of reflectors that are visible all over Finland.