It is that time again. You know it has arrived when you get to work at 8.00 am and it is dark outside. You will then do a full day at work and leave in the dark at 6.15 pm. Summer is well and truly over.
For dog owners it is also the time when they start thinking about the best time to walk their dogs. For those of you in a set routine, this usually means walking your pooch at the same time every day. If this means an early morning walk or one when you get home from work, you'll appreciate that things have just got a lot darker.
As business owners, we see how routines mixed with human nature come into play at certain times of the year. People rarely plan ahead. It is not often that we see our cooling mats flying off the shelves in April, or heat mat sales going through the roof in August - it just doesn't happen, even though warmer and cooler months will soon follow.
Generally speaking, people don't feel a need to buy something that makes them or their pet more comfortable until they or it starts to get a little uncomfortable. And this is not a dig - we all do it.
But as these dark nights are here a little earlier it is important to remember one very important point. Accidents do happen and you and your dog should be seen at all times.
There are various statistics about people and their dogs being hit by cars when it is dark and it is true that not all of these incidents would have been avoided with the help of high visibility clothing or aids being worn, either by the owner or dog. However, it is safe to assume that a person or pet with some form of high vis clothing, light/blinker, torch or reflective material on show stands a better chance of being seen and therefore avoided.
My own personal experiences as a keen road cyclist highlights this very problem.
Two or three nights a week, I will go out and ride my road bike for around 18-25 miles at a decent training pace. My route consists of some A roads but most of the journey is through small villages via quiet country roads.
On a couple of occasions I have narrowly missed a pedestrian walking on the road as they were walking towards me. It was not until they were very close to me that I would spot them and was able to take evasive action.
However, if they wore reflective or flashing high vis clothing I would see them clearly and take the necessary steps to avoid them. These near misses also happen to dog walkers, especially if they are walking their dogs on dark country roads or where pavements are limited.
It is worth emphasising the importance of early warning signals, even in fairly well lit areas. If a driver can see a person or dog from 150-200 yards away, this gives them far more time to react to any unexpected movement. It is also worth bearing in mind that a lot of dog owners will walk their dogs in the early morning or after work.
Drivers may be tired at these times as they themselves could be slow to wake up on the way to work or could be tired after a long day at work. It sounds a little dramatic, but it only takes a few negative combinations to make life a lot more hazardous.
If you want to be visible at all times then you should consider the following:
High visibility reflective clothing and accessories
These come in many formats, shapes and sizes. For dog owners there are reflective arm bands and clothing. The reflective strips on clothing are usually on the edges, seams, or piping. You can also buy very bright high viz jackets that have been manufactured for roadside workers and these are excellent.
There are also many accessories for your dog. A lot of dog coats have reflective strips built in, as do harnesses and even leads.
Blinkers and flashing products
A small blinker or two attached to a belt, coat or collar can make a big difference and only costs a couple of pounds. They will usually run off small round cell batteries (like the CR2032) and these are very cheap to buy. Some will have basic modes including on full, flashing slow, flashing quickly and off.
These will either work on a cell battery or come with a rechargeable unit built in. Some even have a USB lead which can be charged via a PC, laptop or plug with USB connection.
LED lights are bright and don't use huge amount of power, which means they are good for 5-8 hours of continual use before they require recharging.
Finally, there are flashing LED dog collars. These products come in two basic types. The first is a fabric type with a lead ring built into it. The alternative is a softer version which is applied directly over the head and the usual collar with lead is then fitted in front of it. This means the collar can be put on and off easily before attaching a normal collar and lead. It can also be taken off easily after the normal collar and lead have been taken off. The collar will also stay on the dog when walking as the lead (being in front of the collar) stops it from doing so. These LED collars can also have a cell battery or come with a recharging lead.
Whatever you choose to do, please equip yourselves and your dog with the necessary tools and items so you are seen clearly on these dark nights. Remember, an early warning device could make the difference between a safe walk and a disastrous one.