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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Dangers lurk in the strangest places

May 19, 2016

Cyclists and pedestrians always come out the worst in any impact with cars, Steve Wallace writes, a reminder to be more careful when sharing our streets. Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, April 29th 2016

 

We have all seen strange, odd and dangerous behaviour on our streets. Here are some examples:

When we were kids, we were all taught to walk facing traffic. It was deemed to be the safest way to avoid being hit by a car.

Why are so many people walking with their back to traffic? It is especially odd to see them doing it when there is an available sidewalk on the other side of the road. Dumb behaviour at best.

When I asked a pedestrian why he was crossing the intersection on the “Don’t walk” symbol, he replied that he was running, not walking. Comical at best, death-defying at worst.
Some pedestrians seem to have no idea how vulnerable they are to be only a matter of metres from moving vehicles.

When pedestrians and motorized vehicles collide, people always fare worse.

I learned, the hard way, never to put anything on the roof of my car. It was many years ago at university in a Winnipeg winter that I placed my mid-term paper on top of my 1957 VW Beetle. You guessed it: I drove away with it atop the vehicle.

The wind blew the pages and I noticed them fluttering in the famous Winnipeg wind. It took me forever to put it back together, and I have never put anything of value on the roof of my car since. But I did see a fellow put his large coffee on the roof of his car and drive away, only to have it fall to the pavement about half a block away.

I must confess to intervening when a young mom put her baby, in a car seat, on the roof of her car while she was busy getting things organized in the vehicle. I told her it was not a good idea and was given a look of disbelief that I had interrupted. Better safe than sorry.

Many of us have seen a driver with the driver-side seatbelt dangling from the door, clicking its way down the street on the pavement. I have seen people ticketed for this offence. But at the same time, it seems much more dangerous for cyclists to be riding without helmets. What are the chances they will be stopped by police? I have only witnessed a single instance in several years. Helmets save lives.

It is dumber than dumb not to wear one.

Last week, I saw a driver stop behind another driver obviously intending to parallel park. The driver following the parker was so close as to inhibit the intended park and refused to move back. Instead, the offender drove around to the left, after a long delay, almost causing a head-on crash. Parallel parkers always have the right of way.

The guy I saw towing another truck with a rope was probably dumber than most. Goofy at best, dangerous at worst, it looked like a potential bumper-car game of chicken, with two unwilling participants, or an adult version of a pull-me toy with real vehicles.

By far, the dumbest move in traffic is yet to come. Rumour has it there is a plan in the works by the City of Victoria to put bikes, skateboarders, rollerbladers and scooters all in the same lane on a busy multi-lane, one-way street, but traveling within that lane in both directions.

Stay tuned.

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