A springtime reminder to be super-alert
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, May 5th 2017
At this time of year, drivers need to be aware of smaller vehicles hiding in the blind spots over each shoulder.
Why this time of year? Winter is over and there is a much greater preponderance of bikes, motorcycles, scooters and skateboards on our roads.
Over the winter season, there are many cyclists who are serious riders.
They are well-equipped and relatively skillful.
They wear proper protective attire, which is easily identifiable.
Bright colours help drivers see cyclists.
This is clearly not the case when springtime’s better weather arrives.
Recreational riders abound.
They do not have the same dedication to skill and safety as the all-weather rider.
With so many more bicycles on the roads, it is imperative that drivers take extra precautions.
Drivers should employ the “Dutch reach” when opening the driver-side door.
If you use your right arm to open the door, your body is turned backward, toward the approaching cyclist.
This manoeuvre is not only encouraged in Holland, but has become a common habit among drivers elsewhere in Europe.
It’s well worth emulating in North America.
Drivers might be motivated by the prospect of a $109 fine and two penalty points for opening a car door in an unsafe manner.
Motor-vehicle drivers should also be aware of the mandatory shoulder check before a turn, lane change and pulling on and off the road from or to a parking space.
Shoulder checks are also required before entering and leaving a freeway or highway.
Cyclists are silent and need to be seen, since they can’t be heard.
Other modes of transportation, such as skateboards and motorcycles, can be heard.
It’s a good idea for drivers in busy city traffic to open the back windows of the vehicle slightly, so they can hear what they cannot see.
It gives an additional audible warning of traffic.
Looking for motorcycles is imperative, particularly when making left turns.
It’s a good idea to treat motorcycles with the same space cushion as would be granted a car or truck.
The good weather brings motorcyclists out of hibernation, yet many drivers do not give them the same attention as they do larger four-wheeled vehicles.
The most common comment drivers make after a crash with a motorcycle is: “I didn’t see it.”
How is that possible when motorcycles have oscillating headlights and loud engines?
Drivers should be looking for motorcycles, as opposed to vehicles protected by steel, seatbelts and safety technology.
Professional drivers in large vehicles have a number of mirrors, convex and otherwise, to be able to identify smaller vehicles over their shoulders.
Most daily commuters do not have the same advantage.
All motor vehicles should be equipped with convex mirrors.
They can be purchased for about $10 as additions, at most automotive retail outlets.
Many new vehicles now come with them as standard equipment.
It’s best to have them placed in a low and outside position on the side-view mirrors.
Once drivers have used them, they often become indispensable.
They help drivers to see skateboarders and other non-traditional vehicles, such as pedal and motorized scooters.
The addition of convex mirrors does not eliminate the duty to check over the shoulder before any lateral move, but it does reduce the degree to which drivers, particularly seniors who have lost neck flexibility, must turn their heads to comply with the legal responsibility to check blind spots.
Drivers should beware of additional spring and summer hazards and prepare for them accordingly.