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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Resolutions for a safe year on the road

December 24, 2012

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, December 24th, 2012

It's an old rule, but often forgotten: Pedestrians should walk facing traffic, since you can't avoid trouble if you can't see it. Photograph by: LYLE STAFFORD, Times Colonist

It is a time of year when we are encouraged to make resolutions for the coming 12 months. Here are some suggested resolutions for drivers and pedestrians alike.

• Drivers should always travel with the headlights turned on. Vehicles manufactured before 1990 do not have automatic running headlights. Drivers of these older cars and trucks should turn their headlights on at all times. Those with newer models can be much more visible to following traffic, if we use the parking lights, which in turn illuminate the rear lights.

• Pedestrians should always raise their arm to indicate an intention to cross the road at a crosswalk, marked or otherwise. It is common knowledge that drivers are the most conscientious pedestrians. They have an appreciation of how a vehicle can perform. They are aware first-hand of the time and distance needed to stop, accelerate and change lanes. If every driver, when a pedestrian and while waiting to cross the street, resolved to raise an arm and point in their intended path of pedestrian travel, it would go a long way to influencing non-drivers to do the same.

• All drivers should resolve to use turn signals for every change in direction. It would be the best way to communicate in advance which direction the driver is intending to travel. Parking lots are particularly chaotic, especially when drivers make pedestrians guess which direction a vehicle is about to go. Most drivers do not know that in almost every city and town in our country, parking lot locations register the most crashes. Intersections and high-speed highways are by far the two locations where the vast number of fatal crashes occurs. But the greatest number of crashes still happens in parking lots.

• Pedestrians can resolve to walk facing traffic. We all learned this when we were kids in elementary school. The behaviour is anything but elementary, and all too foreign for a great number of pedestrians. How can pedestrians avoid something they are unable to see coming their way, if they cannot see it?

• Drivers should resolve to use the four-way flashers, emergency or hazard lights, whichever descriptive terminology preferred. Of all the standard equipment on a vehicle, these intermittent warning lights are the least used. They warn other drivers of animals on the road. Many professional drivers use them to alert tailgaters to their dangerous behavior. Flagpersons always appreciate approaching drivers who activate the warning lights. It gives them comfort that they have been seen by oncoming drivers. Many big-rig drivers will display the warning lights when slowly climbing a hill. It alerts traffic to the slow-moving vehicle.

• Pedestrians should resolve to stand well back from an intersection when preparing to cross. Some stand so close to vehicular cross-traffic and place themselves in immediate danger of being clipped by an extended mirror or other protruding appendage of a commercial or industrial vehicle. Pedestrians would be well-advised to seek the protection of a pole, post, light standard or other physical barrier when waiting for traffic to stop and allow them to cross.

• The most basic proposed resolution for both drivers and pedestrians is the simplest of requests. Obey the traffic lights.

Is it too much to ask that pedestrians actually WALK when the signal is evident and DON’T WALK when it is plainly visible? Conversely, is it too much to ask drivers to stop running amber and red lights? A solid amber traffic light means stop, unless the driver is in the intersection or so close as to not be able to stop safely. A red light means stop, even when making a legal right turn on a red light.

Choose any or all of these suggested resolutions and have a safe and prosperous new year.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas and a registered B.C. teacher.

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