Steve Wallace: Distancing rules affect motorists too

There is nothing like an emergency to bring out the best in people, and the worst in the extreme minority. The overwhelming majority of us are following the advice of health professionals and enforcement agencies.

An example of keeping six feet apart can be seen in any large parking lot in most every city in every province. This is generally the practice of professional drivers, but due to our collective health situation, it is now being adopted by the general driving public. There are many single-occupant vehicles on the road, driver only. This is another way to practise social distancing.

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Drivers must be more careful when encountering pedestrians. The path of travel for pedestrians has become wider, because of social distancing. They will often dash out of the periphery to get across the street, lane or parking lot.

Drivers should do a circular visual check before leaving any parking space. It is a good idea to do a walk around the vehicle before backing. A double toot of the horn, when shifting to reverse, also helps to warn others. Larger vehicles have beepers for this purpose.

“Here lies a pedestrian,

He’s as cold as ice,

He only jumped once,

When he should have jumped twice.”

This is an odd way to visualize the action of any pedestrian. It is the duty of every driver to be aware of the potential dangers experienced by pedestrians.

Walking is now the most popular way to exercise. Swimming pools, gyms and many other sports facilities are closed, because of the present health risk. We should all be more aware of the dangers faced by pedestrians. There is always the temptation to cross a road when it is not permitted. Doing the predictable is the best way to stay safe in any type of traffic, vehicular or otherwise.

With fewer vehicles on the road during this social distancing health emergency, there are more cyclists commuting every day. It is an easy and healthy way to get around. Just as pedestrians should stay off the road, cyclists should stay off the sidewalk. There are fewer automobiles moving everywhere, and lots of space on the roads for bikes.

There is a distinct possibility of a reduced death rate this year in motor vehicle crashes. The virus threat has made people more carful in their daily life, which often includes driving. People do seem to be polite, as they go about their necessary daily tasks.

Shannon has noticed a general slack attitude by some drivers. They use the newly available space to accommodate a sloppy pattern of driving. Additional space should be a good thing, not an opportunity to be less skilful or safe on the road. Good drivers can use the space to escape, sloppy drivers use it as a forgiveness factor.

When we have patience and distance from others in the traffic system, we are protecting ourselves from the possible legal entanglements which often result from a crash.

Having the “Right of Way” is little solace for family members of fatal crash victims.

“Here lies the body of Eddie Gray,

He died defending his right of way,

He was in the right as he sped along,

But he’s just as dead as if he was wrong.”

Using the same walking techniques behind the wheel is a way of being given the right of way as opposed to taking it. The level of reciprocal accommodation is good to see.

How long the relative co-operation on the road and on the sidewalk will last is anyone's guess. Hope for the best!

(A thanks to David W. for the rhyming renditions above)

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

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