We all see them with a degree of approach-avoidance behaviour.
They are the flaggers working diligently to keep traffic moving at construction sites and other bottlenecks in every community in our province.
While we are not keen to be held up by construction, we are pleased to see the work near completion and new pavement appear ahead.
It goes without saying that all drivers should obey the directions of flaggers, and people using alternative forms of transportation should do the same. Some flaggers will have communication devices that are meant to eliminate confusion at noisy or visually difficult locations. Sometimes a pilot car must be employed because of long distances between flaggers.
Drivers and flaggers should both have eye-to-eye contact upon approach. This is a double-check to ensure both have seen and acknowledged the other. Sometimes a flash of the headlights or a simple friendly wave of the hand will suffice to confirm acknowledgement.
Flaggers who do not have communication devices are very adept at hand signals and other gestures to confirm which vehicles should proceed. They try to make wait times equal in each direction, particularly when there is a relative imbalance in the traffic flow.
Flaggers will often wave their stop or slow signs from side to side if they feel traffic is approaching too quickly and wave people forward when it is moving too slowly.
They are outfitted in bright florescent colours. It is unforgivable to not recognize them, but some drivers are so zoned-out that it happens from time to time. That is why it’s a good practice to engage your four-way flashers when approaching an area overseen by flaggers. This has a dual purpose: It gives the flaggers some comfort in knowing they have been recognized and warns traffic behind of a pending delay or mandatory speed reduction.
Most non-professional drivers suffer from velocity strain. During a long highway drive, it is difficult to judge the speed of a vehicle as it slows for an upcoming construction zone. Most drivers in this situation think they are well within the maximum speed, but are, in fact, well above. A constant speed check is needed when approaching any unscheduled stops on a long highway drive.
Flaggers can and should provide information to authorities when driving infractions occur. Drivers not stopping or slowing to an acceptable speed should be ticketed. Our current system allows for information to be provided to police when infractions occur.
There have been deaths and serious injuries when drivers ignore or are unaware of directions and warnings of flaggers.
This might sound radical, but I believe it is time to swear in flaggers as “officers” at certain high-speed and dangerous traffic locations. There should be some way to have them perform as quasi peace officers, with the ability to ticket. Yes, they can give all the relevant information to the police under the existing system, but that does not provide an immediate response to bad and dangerous driving behaviour.
There have been several instances where flaggers have been bullied by drivers advancing against their direction.
Maybe a reaffirmation of their role and responsibilities under the Motor Vehicle Act should be considered. The term “flaggers” has been used throughout this piece, but there are more appropriate terms to describe the designation.
They keep us safe and it is probably about time we took the initiative to help keep them safer. Just a thought!
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former V.P. of the Driving School Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a U of Manitoba.