The team at Blind Foundation Guide Dogs give some tips on how to keep safe on the streets in low light.

This time of year can be extra challenging for pedestrians and drivers, with shorter daylight hours and poor weather conditions. For guide dog teams, during winter and particularly at dusk, at night and in bad weather, it is a priority to be visible to motorists, cyclists and other pedestrians.

Increase visibility by wearing bright, colourful and reflective apparel. This could include a fluorescent vest or battery operated headlamp. Ensure your dog is wearing his or her harness which has reflective material on the body piece. You might also consider a clip on collar light or a reflective/light up leash. There are a lot of choices to choose from, it all depends on your personal preference, budget and location.

It is advised you walk against traffic, stay on well-lit roads avoiding shortcuts through alleyways and stick to familiar routes. It may seem obvious, but carry your phone. Make sure it is charged, and save the phone number of your emergency veterinarian and a taxi service just in case. If you have a smartphone, it will have a built-in flashlight as a back-up for added visibility, and comes with navigational tools which can come in handy in an emergency.

If you have safety concerns about an intersection or stretch of pavement contact your local council and the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA). You might also want to contact your Guide Dog Mobility Instructor for further advice on how improvements could be made. For example, cutting back bushes, improving signage or clearing footpaths of obstacles. Living Streets are an advocacy group that are very proactive in making our streets safer for pedestrians. Check out their website to find out how you can get involved.

If you have concerns about a specific intersection, road or highway (including signals and signage), these are sometimes the responsibility of the local Council or NZTA – you can report issues to both. For NZTA, fill in the online form and choose ‘State Highways/roads’ from the dropdown menu. Or email info@nzta.govt.nz

If you are involved in a collision with a vehicle, phone 111 in an emergency or 105 in a non-emergency. The incident should be reported to the police within 24 hours and an ambulance called if you have come into contact with the vehicle. Make sure to get your guide dog checked by a vet as soon as possible. Even if there are no external injuries, trauma can cause a number of internal injuries that cannot be detected by just looking at your dog. You will also need to advise your Guide Dog Mobility Instructor.