As 2021 begins, many of us are reflecting on the changes we hope to make and and goals we’ll be setting for the new year. If exercise in the form of walking or biking is among your resolutions, we hope you’ll be reflecting in more ways than one.

That’s because we have a serious epidemic in Lufkin: People who like to walk or ride bikes at night dressed in head-to-toe black. Combine that with the fact that our city is poorly lit in many areas, and you have a recipe for disaster.

How many times has it happened to you? You’re driving along a darkened stretch of road when suddenly, out of nowhere, someone in a dark hoodie and dark pants instantly appears, walking with their back to you down the side of the road. You almost run over them.

Over the past six years, numerous auto-pedestrian crashes have occurred in Lufkin, 12 of which were fatal. In 2020 alone, at least two people were transported to out-of-town hospitals for injuries sustained in such accidents here in town.

Auto-pedestrian crashes are collisions that occur between a vehicle and a pedestrian, be it someone on foot or a person using a small personal transport device such as a bicycle or scooter.

As with any collision, a number of factors contribute to the cause of an auto-pedestrian crash, such as distractions, the time of day and lighting. And distractions aren’t solely a problem for drivers — in 10 of the fatal crashes the pedestrian failed to yield to the vehicle, and in one incident both the driver and the pedestrian had contributing factors in the crash.

With the shortest days of the year having just passed, it’s more important now than ever for us all to remember to wear high-visibility reflective clothing or gear anytime we’re out walking, jogging or cycling after dark. And parents need to make reflective gear and blinking lights an everyday habit and safety measure for their children.

“It’s important to wear bright colored clothing if you’re walking after dark or use some sort of light,” Texas Department of Public Safety Lufkin District spokeswoman Rhonda Oaks said in a Lufkin Daily News article. “Don’t walk in the roadway or near the lane of traffic. If possible walk off the roadway. Be alert to any movement on the roadway. Have those lights on, even during the day. The bottom line is nobody getting hurt out there, nobody getting hit or getting in a crash. Being alert is the key to staying safe whether you’re a motorist or a pedestrian.”