WENDY VICTORA: Blinded by the emergency lights

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On the night before what will go down in local history as the “second ice storm but mostly just hella cold,” I was driving down Racetrack Road when I noticed a large wreck. There were emergency vehicles and lights flashing on both sides of the road.

I couldn’t have missed the accident, but what I did almost miss was a group of firefighters walking across the dark road in front of my car, visible only by reflective patches on the bottom of their pants.

My daughter spotted them before I did, asking if I’d seen them. It scared me that I hadn’t. That could have easily become the worst night of my life, the night that an error changed countless lives forever.

I was driving slowly but was also blinded by the six to eight emergency vehicles flashing red and white lights into the dark night. Their vehicles were lit up like the Empire State Building. But that same light threw the pedestrians into a dark contrast.

And I wondered how many other drivers have struggled with the same thing.

The brighter the lights, the harder it can be to see unlit objects.

I have noticed it before while passing emergency vehicles.

On a smaller scale, I face the same challenge every time I drive into my unlit neighborhood, which is off of Racetrack Road.

I turn off of the four-lane road, briefly blinded by oncoming headlights, and into the dark cave of my unlit street. It literally takes my eyes a few seconds to adjust and spot the pedestrians and bicyclists common to the area.

After I’ve safely made the turn, I almost always send up a small prayer of thanks that no one chose that exact moment to dart across the road.

I probably would have seen them. But it’s difficult.

I hate to think that we need more lights on a world that seems like it is already 90 percent concrete and asphalt and artificially lit. We need more quiet, dark and peaceful places. More space for animals and humans to live that aren’t lit up like an airport runway.

But every pedestrian fatality is one too many. And every accident involving someone who is giving their life to serve and protect us is an unspeakable tragedy.

Last week’s near miss spooked me. I will be even more cautious driving by emergency flashing lights. May you learn from my almost mistake and avoid making your own.

Managing Editor Wendy Victora can be reached at 315-4478 or wvictora@nwfdailynews.com

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