Steve Wallace: How to be smart while sharing the road

Pedestrians are vulnerable and the most at risk in our traffic system. They have no protection or barrier to keep them safe. A sidewalk is their path of travel, and crosswalks are their designed safety feature when crossing the road.

Smart pedestrians do the predictable. Smart pedestrians walk in a concerted fashion with intent, head up and aware of their surroundings. If they must use their cellphone, they use a hands-free option that allows them the visibility to be well-aware of their surroundings.

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Smarter pedestrians follow their elementary school teacher’s rule of walking facing traffic, when there are no sidewalks. They show intent to cross the road by raising an arm pointed in their direction of travel.

The smartest pedestrians not only watch for odd traffic movements, but also pay attention to traffic-light cycles and their timing. They wear reflective clothing at night and to be easily identified during the day. Joggers must be extra-attentive, due to their relative speed differential, compared with other normally slow-moving pedestrian traffic. (Mobility scooters are classified as pedestrian traffic. Their normal travel speed is generally higher than that of the average pedestrian. Warning bells and verbal communication are their best ways of getting attention.)

Smart cyclists are very aware of their vulnerability in our traffic system. When they get a chance to use dedicated cycling lanes, they avail themselves of the protected route, which enables them to avoid getting “doored.” A driver who opens the door that contacts a cyclist is always totally at fault. Cyclists almost always bear the brunt of injury.

Smart cyclists wear a helmet, as the law requires. Smarter cyclists always signal their intention and position themselves strategically in the travel lanes. They travel in single file and are very predictable in their movements. Bicycles are deemed to be vehicles and must adhere to all the rules and regulations in the Motor Vehicle Act. The smartest cyclists are well equipped. They have mirrors, including helmet-attached rear-view mirrors. “Head on a swivel” is an expression that comes to mind when identifying aware cyclists.

Motor-vehicle drivers must be equally aware behind the wheel. Smart drivers make additional space between themselves and vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists. Spaces define superior drivers and can be a clear indication of good driving traits. Safe drivers give a greater importance to space as opposed to speed. They are always looking for an “out,” rather than opting for the slam-on-the-brakes tendency, resulting in the most common collision — the rear-ender.

Drivers on high-speed highways will often choose a lane that gives them the best escape potential. High-speed collisions are seldom avoided by braking alone. Controlled steering, into an already identified space cushion, is much more effective in avoiding a high-speed crash.

Smarter drivers will position themselves alongside another vehicle when crossing an intersection. This is a common use of a “blocker” manoeuvre, which guards against the T-bone crash. The smartest drivers are aware of the 360-degree area around their vehicle. They do a 360 check before leaving any parking area. They sound the horn before backing and do the same if vision is obscured when moving forward from a parking space. Backing into a parking space after doing a 360 is their preference. These drivers always do a shoulder check when turning right across bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks.

We see so many examples of good driving practices on our streets every day.

Sadly, the most noticed driving behaviours involve the minority of unsafe actions of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. These actions stand out like a sore thumb. That is why next week’s column will address the dumb, dumber and dumbest on our roads.

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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