Can’t drivers and pedestrians just get along?
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, December 13th, 2012
There are several things pedestrians and drivers can do to reduce the risk of someone being hit by a vehicle.
Establishing eye contact with approaching drivers is the best way to ensure they are paying attention. Pedestrians should get into the habit of raising an arm and pointing in the direction they wish to proceed across any street, lane, driveway and parking-lot entrance or exit. This simple action alone will draw attention to the pedestrian’s route. It’s about time pedestrians signalled their intention the way drivers must do.
It’s also important for pedestrians to cross streets at designated points. When the lighted signal says “walk,” they should do so. But they should always keep in mind the dangers lurking at intersections. Walkers should be looking at vehicles approaching from all directions. They should also pay attention to signals that very plainly state “don’t walk.” Far too many pedestrians surprise vehicular traffic by running in front of approaching four-wheeled missiles.
Many pedestrians wear hoods, use umbrellas and carry objects that block their view of immediate danger at intersections.
Some pedestrians think they have a God-given right to walk unobstructed, without looking, into traffic when they appear to have the right-of-way at an intersection. They seem to think there is some sort of protective, hidden force-field between the white lines that designate a legally marked crosswalk.
Why do pedestrians insist on wearing dark clothing at night, in the rain? Wouldn’t it be a simple act of safety to have reflective clothing or at least reflective tape attached to clothing for walking at night?
Don’t pedestrians see impending doom from distractions such as ear buds, cellphones and other electronic devices?
As for drivers, they are all too often unaware of their own responsibilities when arriving at a crosswalk.
Most drivers do not differentiate between solid and intermittent crosswalk lines, let alone unmarked crosswalks.
Solid crosswalk lines appear at intersections governed by a stop sign or signalized traffic lights. Intermittent (zebra) lines are placed at intersections where drivers must stop only when such a crosswalk is occupied by a pedestrian.
The end of every city block is a legal unmarked crosswalk. Pedestrians need only show intent to cross this area to necessitate a full stop by vehicles on the street. Most drivers get into the habit of driving through unmarked crosswalks without regard for pedestrian traffic.
Drivers must yield to pedestrian traffic when zebra crossings are occupied. Unfortunately, drivers are also in the habit of driving unobstructed through these types of crosswalks. Drivers may well travel through several without the need to stop, and are thus surprised to see a pedestrian occupying such a crossing.
Drivers should use the elementary left-right-left method of checking when making a right turn at an intersection. There is a tendency for drivers making a right turn on a red light to concentrate far too much on the vehicular traffic approaching from the left, at the expense of pedestrian traffic crossing on the right.
When drivers or pedestrians make a mistake at a crosswalk, it’s the pedestrians who pay the physical price.
In the last six years, 81 pedestrians have been killed in Vancouver alone, more than the 26 drivers, 16 passengers, 15 motorcyclists and six cyclists combined.
Isn’t it about time both drivers and pedestrians began to show one another a greater degree of respect?
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is a former vice-president of the Associated Driving Schools of the Americas, and a registered B.C. teacher.