You have questions, I have answers
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, August 21st 2013
Several readers have asked me to clarify the meaning of a legal crosswalk and a driver’s responsibility.
Some crosswalks are marked with solid or intermittent lines. Pedestrians within the lines, crossing legally, always have the right-of-way. Solid lines are at intersections with stop signs or traffic lights. Zebra or intermittent lines are placed where traffic would not normally stop, if it were not for a pedestrian wishing to cross the road. (Certain municipalities are clueless when it comes to crosswalk painting and reverse this elementary placement procedure, causing havoc among drivers and pedestrians alike).
Crosswalks do not have to be marked. Every intersection is considered to contain a legal crosswalk as a natural extension of the sidewalk. These are called unmarked crosswalks. Mid-block crossing is only legal at a marked or illuminated crosswalk.
Angela asked me to comment on the pets-in-cars issue. It is an offence to be distracted by a pet when driving. People who seem to have a small dog permanently attached to their shoulders while driving should be ticketed. It is unsafe for all surrounding traffic. The pet obscures vision and could be severely injured should an airbag deploy.
Margaret queried the merge protocol when two lanes become one. When no signs or signals direct drivers, it’s best to adopt the alternate merge approach as late in the process as possible, so as not to have one extremely long line of early-merging traffic moving at a snail’s pace or not at all. Where signs indicate otherwise, it’s best to follow the “right lane yield” direction or any other instruction. The troubles begin with the typical polite Canadian driver who insists on behaviour contrary to a posted instruction.
Heather asked when it is proper to block a crosswalk when turning right. Drivers who are unable to see lateral traffic of any kind are legally bound to move forward to a visual vantage point prior to turning. It is legal to block the crosswalk in this situation if no pedestrians are present or the “don’t walk” signal is flashing at the intersection. Great care must be given to get eye-to-eye contact with late-arriving pedestrians. Drivers should move far enough forward to clear the crosswalk and force any late-arriving pedestrians behind the car for their own safety.
Pamela wanted to know why the penalties for drunk driving are so lenient. She wondered why judges give seemingly light sentences for the offence. The answer is simple. Don’t blame the judges, police, prosecutor or provincial governments who are doing their best to prosecute such offenders. Blame the federal members of parliament for their lack of action and direction on this issue. It is a federal offence and it is their responsibility. Shame on them!
Wayne had a very interesting question. What should a driver do if a jaywalker is attempting to cross five lanes of traffic on a busy downtown street? Should a driver risk getting hit from behind by stopping unexpectedly? Does this endanger the jaywalker when other drivers do not stop?
Drivers should do the expected and proceed unless there is a threat of a collision with the pedestrian jaywalker. Using the four-way flashers will alert following drivers of an odd situation. A hand signal will do the same. Mid-block stops are an invitation to be rear-ended and should be avoided whenever possible, for the safety of all.
Tony wanted me to give advice about the use of the emergency hand brake. Always use it when parked! That is my advice. It is a safety feature too often ignored. Parked vehicles have been known to roll away under their own power because a stationary braking system was not engaged. The exception is in severe winter conditions, when these systems have a tendency to freeze.
Keep the questions coming!
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas. Steve is a registered B.C. teacher with a degree from the University of Manitoba.