We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Short tap of horn polite way to engage with pedestrians

April 30, 2021

A pedestrian uses the new crosswalk at Blanshard Street and Kings Road. If you need to engage with a pedestrian while driving and can’t get eye contact, a gentle tap of the horn would not be considered impolite, Steve Wallace writes. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST


Readers want answers. Here are my responses to some recently received questions.

How should drivers engage with pedestrians, without seeming impolite?

Eye-to-eye communication is easy when drivers and pedestrians are within their accepted field of vision. The best way to get eye contact, in other less obvious line-of-vision circumstances, is with a short tap of the horn. The horn is often used in anger, as opposed to the announcing of one’s presence. Pedestrians react well to vehicles that are within their field of vision. They do not react well when surprised or alarmed by an unnecessary horn blast coming from a pedestrian’s blind spot. There are several situations when a pedestrian is oblivious to the threat of a motor vehicle. Despite public service announcements urging pedestrians to walk facing traffic, many have their back to approaching vehicular traffic. A gentle tap of the horn is well within the accepted behaviour of drivers approaching unsuspecting, unaware pedestrians, lacking the most elementary safety behaviour. Drivers are reminded to watch the feet of pedestrians for directional predictability.

Russel would like to know why all vehicles moving in reverse gear are not equipped with beepers. This would alert pedestrians in parking lots to the danger of motor vehicles backing out of a parking space. Whether backing in or out, pedestrians and other drivers would likely appreciate this suggested warning device.

Several readers had questions about combating the rat problem. My cousin’s expensive repair was evidence of a serious problem. The fabric softener solution was noted. But Debbie referenced sonar electric repellant devices which may work as well or better. They are available at many automotive departments of popular retail outlets. Why is this necessary? Manufacturers are using cellulose-based wire coverings, to which rats are attracted.

Why do I have to wait a whole year in the learner stage before I can get a road test, when my dad and mom only had to wait two weeks? This is a question asked by many new drivers, most of them being teenagers.

The one-year minimum learning phase is mandatory for everyone in the learning stage. It is followed by a two-year novice driver phase, which can be reduced by six months if a graduated course is successfully completed.

There were a few iterations of the extended learning phase. The first had the learning period go to one month from two weeks, then three months and nine months over several years. The move from three months to nine months caused havoc in the driving school business. Many driving school owners were under severe financial duress. Finally, the present one-year time frame took hold. This all happened over a decade or so of implementation. Despite the relative business hardship, the death rate has plummeted to less than half of what it was from inception. Most jurisdictions in Canada have, in some form, followed B.C.’s leadership in this extended-learning strategy.

The answer to the original question is simple. It saves lives!

Recent research on the teenage brain has yielded very profound results.

The teen brain does not fully mature until about 25 years of age. The addition of a co-pilot in the initial L phase has reduced the crash rate by about four times as compared to the former lower learning-phase time frames. The decision-making process for teens often takes place with immediate gratification trumping the future negative consequences of the action.

Insurance companies in Canada have recognized the relative benefit of driving courses and some offer discounts or huge rebates for course attendance and successful completion. B.C. prefers to see concrete results before offering a six-month reduction of the two-year N phase. The simple answer, two weeks yielded crashes, two years saves lives.

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