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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Pedestrians Play a Part in Traffic Safety

August 12, 2014

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, August 6th 2014

Pedestrians face dangers as they move into traffic, but a little awareness will go a long way.   Photograph By LYLE STAFFORD, Times Colonist

Pedestrians face dangers as they move into traffic, but a little awareness will go a long way. Photograph By LYLE STAFFORD, Times Colonist

Drivers are the best pedestrians! They understand the performance limitations of their vehicles. When they walk across intersections, they actually try to get eye-to-eye contact with vehicle drivers. They know that fast reaction to potential crash situations is a necessary skill. Space, speed and time are all factors they take into account in their daily commute and highway road trips. They are also very familiar with their legal obligations behind the wheel.

Motorcycle riders are very careful pedestrians. They are so frightened of not being noticed on the road that they have a heightened awareness as pedestrians at crosswalks. Being seen is their highest priority when riding, and is an easily transferable skill when walking.

People who do not have a driver’s licence are the worst pedestrians of all. The way they behave is confounding at best and death-defying at worst. It is obvious that many are illiterate. How else would you explain the fact that they will look directly at a “DON’T WALK” flashing signal and still venture into the intersection? Maybe they do see the signal flashing and in some twist of logic think they should run. If so, do you think these perturbing pedestrian people have any idea that they may be actually running for their lives? Maybe we should have signs that say “DON’T RUN, EITHER.” Running to cross an intersection does not give even the most careful driver a chance to avoid a seemingly suicidal pedestrian. We teach kids not to run across intersections, but see adults doing it on a regular basis.

If handheld cellphone use is not permitted while driving a motorized vehicle, shouldn’t it be the same for the distracted chatty pedestrian at a crosswalk?

Is it too much to ask a pedestrian to put their hand up at an intersection and point in the direction they wish to cross? This would give drivers an advanced warning and create a small comfort and confidence in the pedestrian’s intent. While they are at it, maybe an actual glance in the direction of oncoming vehicles might be in order. Nothing beats eye-to-eye contact when it comes to safety at crosswalks.

Pedestrians who stand on the curb at an intersection are centimetres away from cross traffic. The can be struck by mirror extensions, particularly as it pertains to commercial vehicles. Staying on a full-width sidewalk, set back from cross traffic, is the best position while waiting for vehicular traffic to clear.

Pedestrians should push the button, if a signal is available, every time they wish to cross. This will insure enough time to get across each intersection. Many times a pedestrian will “luckily” happen upon a recent traffic light change that is timed for vehicle cross traffic, not allowing for the longer cycle needed by those walking. It is a mistake to think vehicle sensors are timed the same as pedestrian-controlled demand signals at crosswalks.

Left-turn advance signals at intersections are especially dangerous for pedestrians. They must wait for cars turning left and having the right-of-way to do so, before they can walk across the road.

It is high time pedestrians stopped acting as if some invisible force field of protection surrounds them every time they put their life on the line while crossing at a duly constituted intersection.

Drivers are quite justified in tapping the horn lightly when danger lurks, in order to get eye-to-eye contact at a crosswalk from some seemingly comatose, peripheral-vision-challenged pedestrians.

Drivers who are frustrated by pedestrian movements must always remember that they should remain courteous when in the company of pedestrians, no matter how much confounding foolish foot traffic is present.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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