Reflector web

Medical Reserve Corps Units Focus on Pedestrian Safety

Apr 05, 2024

Vermont’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Program is using funding from the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response’s MRC State, Territory and Tribal Nations, Representative Organizations for Next Generation (MRC STTRONG) cooperative agreement to launch a statewide pedestrian safety initiative after a successful pilot project last year. The program, called Be Bright at Night, was modeled on a similar campaign in Norway that began in 1954 as a national effort to provide all pedestrians with clip-on reflectors to reduce the number of vehicle-on-pedestrian crashes and fatalities. Vermont’s rural nature, northern latitude, and lack of built road infrastructure are comparable to other nations that have successfully launched similar safety campaigns, and the state hopes to make similar gains in pedestrian safety. Vermont’s MRC program piloted education and reflector giveaways in select locations during 2022. Demand for continuing the program and funding from MRC STTRONG has brought it back.

Beate Ankjaer-Jensen, Unit Co-Coordinator of Rutland/Addison MRC and the imagination behind the program, touts investment in pedestrian wellbeing as critical to creating a ‘culture of safety’ in her native country. Reflex Day in Norway is a national day where schools, businesses, and employers give out reflectors, coupled with public service announcements, making sure people are equipped for safe nighttime travel as days grow shorter. Although Vermont doesn’t have a state reflector day (yet), the Be Bright at Night program is geared towards educating ‘at risk’ individuals who spend an inordinate amount of time walking, biking, or rolling on Vermont roadways. Targeted groups include school children, early morning and late evening bus users, the unhoused population, and those with lack of access to a vehicle. The program rounds out these groups by also working with recreational road users who walk, run, bike, or otherwise locomote for pleasure by partnering with recreational facilities and clubs.

Be Bright at Night is a collaborative effort with Vermont Department of Health’s Watch for Me VT program and various transportation stakeholders, including the Agency of Transportation, and is informed by data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others. A Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report projects U.S. pedestrian fatality rate per billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) jumped 20% in 2020, some due to increased dangerous driving. In 2019, Vermont experienced 131 hospitalizations and emergency department visits related to pedestrian involving vehicles, an increase from 127 visits in 2018. For a small state with only 643,000 residents, it was readily apparent that every person counted, and that the majority of crashes were preventable with a targeted approach. Comparative data gathered during the STTRONG project period will be used to see not only who has used the reflectors and educational materials, but to measure over time any changes in pedestrian injury data.

Be Bright at Night is unique because it educates all parties on how to effectively alter the paradigm on nighttime safety,” says Heather Rigney, MRC Statewide Coordinator. “Understanding the hazards, increasing your visibility, and incorporating proven safety measures are something we can all embrace.”

The program has elements that work directly with pedestrians and with drivers on prevention, and also with municipalities on how they can mitigate unsafe areas to improve safety standards in their communities.

The program dovetails well with other initiatives promoted by state and community-level partners. MRC units are provided clip-on reflectors for distribution to ‘at risk’ groups, and snap-on reflectors are also provided for individuals with functional needs that make it difficult for them to manipulate clips, or to add reflectivity to devices such as strollers, walkers, and wheelchairs. Convenient, colorful rack cards, posters, and a short YouTube video round out the educational materials. The print materials have been translated into more than 15 languages common in Vermont. Efforts are underway to translate the Be Bright at Night informational video as well.

Click here for more information on the Be Bright at Night campaign.


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