We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Watch out for inattentive pedestrians

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, February 3, 2012

Pedestrians can be their own worst enemies, but the onus is on drivers to be vigilant. Photograph by: Darren Stone, Victoria Times Colonist

Pedestrians can be their own worst enemies, but the onus is on drivers to be vigilant.

Last week, I saw a pedestrian cross the road at a well-marked crosswalk. The traffic light was green, but the “don’t walk” flashing red light was clearly visible. The pedestrian crossing the street never saw the flashing signal. In fact, the person crossing had positioned an umbrella against the wind in such a fashion as to be totally blind to any approaching vehicles, cyclists, scooters and other pedestrians.

Each year in B.C., about three dozen pedestrians are killed because of collisions with vehicles of all types and sizes.

It’s generally acknowledged by authorities and most professional drivers that pedestrians are often their own worst enemies. Running to make it across an intersection against a traffic light is just one type of foolish behaviour.

Distracted pedestrians who talk on a cellphone, read a newspaper or email, text and become enthralled by an electronic device are doing themselves and drivers a disservice.

Some are so immersed in conversation that they are oblivious to the everyday dangers surrounding them.

This behaviour is not likely to change anytime soon, given the lack of enforcement and resources available to police and the reluctance of local and provincial governments to take the situation seriously.

What can drivers do to reduce the risk of a collision with pedestrians? Here are some tips to employ when mixing with pedestrians in everyday driving.

School and playground areas are the highest priority for pedestrian-crossing enforcement. Always slow to the regulated speed in these zones. Children often run to and from the school grounds. Lean appropriately to the left or right of the travelled lane to get a better angle of view for these smaller, hard-to-see pedestrians.

When travelling on multilane roads, always choose the lane farthest removed from the right-side parallel sidewalk.

That will place the vehicle one lane removed from the pedestrians as they begin their walk across the road. It will also guard against the inattentive driver who opens a vehicle door without properly checking traffic.

It is a good idea to hesitate for a second or two when a traffic light changes from red to green, allowing for any pedestrians who may be late in crossing the road.

Other vehicles beside your vehicle may hide pedestrians who have entered the crosswalk late and are running to make it to the other side of the street.

Leaving the intersection at the same time as the vehicle beside you, on a multilane street, is also a good idea. Each driver provides a blocker function for the other: If one driver slows, so will the other. It works like a charm.

Drivers seem very conscious of pedestrian crosswalks at intersections, where they expect to yield to pedestrians.

Where they get surprised is at mid-block pedestrian crosswalks, particularly when the crosswalks are “zebra”-type intermittent vertical wide lines.

This type of crosswalk does not accompany a stop sign or typical traffic-light assembly. Most drivers get used to going through the crosswalk without stopping when it is not occupied.

After cruising through several zebra crosswalks, drivers are often surprised by a quick walking or jogging pedestrian.

Pedestrians and drivers both speed up in the rain.

This is a bad combination.

Parents with young children, the elderly and the physically handicapped all take longer to cross the street. It’s a good idea for drivers to allow more time in such circumstances. black and are hard to see at night.

When we’re driving, it’s obvious that some pedestrians act unpredictably, but pedestrians say the same about drivers. It’s up to us as drivers to be vigilant. When a vehicle and pedestrian collide, it’s never good for the pedestrian.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Interior of B.C.


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