We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Once again into the trusty reader mailbag

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, June 16th 2017

Helmets aren’t mandatory for cyclists on the Galloping Goose Regional Trail but they are on public roads, which creates a conundrum at road crossings, Steve Wallace writes.


Here are the latest suggestions and observations from readers. Driving with both the running lights and tail lights illuminated provides a space cushion by creating the illusion of closeness for both oncoming and following vehicles.

This illusion of proximity discourages not only poor oncoming passing practices, but the habit of following too closely. Conversely, vehicles that do not light up automatically are believed to be farther away, which encourages bad passing practices and tailgating.

What is the safe following distance? Is it the same when travelling behind a small vehicle, motorcycle or semi-trailer truck? The old rule of one car length for every 10 miles an hour is no longer relevant. The two-second rule now applies — three seconds for exceptional circumstances. Counting the appropriate number of seconds once the vehicle ahead has passed an easily identifiable marker is a good following distance drill.

Four-way flashers, commonly referred to as hazard or emergency lights, are meant to warn of immediate or impending danger. There could be animals on the road. The road might be washed out. A slippery surface might be ahead.

There are all sorts of reasons to warn other traffic. These warning lights can identify a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of the road or someone waiting for a tow truck. Drivers will often flash their highbeams to alert others of danger ahead or to get oncoming drivers to dim their headlights, which are blinding others.

Warning other drivers is a good idea. But the best intentions can be misinterpreted. Many readers shared stories of acts of kindness that have been rebuffed or ignored. A driver with a seatbelt dangling from the bottom of a closed driver door ignored all who attempted to warn of the oddity. A suitcase atop a vehicle is not a common occurrence, but trying to warn the involved driver is not always easy.

The best way of warning another of such things as an extremely low tire, for instance, is by hitting the horn, flashing the lights, using four-way flashers or using appropriate hand signals.

One reader wrote to promote scatter intersections. All traffic at such an intersection must stop, while pedestrians can proceed in any direction they choose. It’s a way of separating pedestrians from the dangers of parallel vehicular traffic. The reader says it works in several other jurisdictions. Why not here?

It’s a good idea to separate modes of transportation, largely to protect cyclists and pedestrians, who regularly take the brunt of serious crashes with motor vehicle.

There were several questions posed by readers for which I had no good answers.

Why are helmets not required for cyclists on such trails as the Galloping Goose? Must they wear a helmet when crossing the road on the Goose or must they dismount to meet the legal requirement?

What are the rules for a Segway? Do they ride on the sidewalk or the street or both? (By the way, the inventor of the Segway was killed in 2010 at the age of 62 while riding his invention. His name was Jim Heselden and he went over a cliff beside the trail upon which he had been riding.)

Where can in-line or rollerskaters travel? Should they stay on the sidewalk or the road?

Mobility scooters are restricted to the sidewalk. Skateboarders must stay on the road.

If a driver at a four-way stop sees that other vehicles that have arrived first are impeded by pedestrians or vehicles, is it all right to jump the queue and use them as blockers?

The answer is yes.

More to come!








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