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John Ducker: Pedestrians, when you're on the road it's 'game on'

Pedestrians are both victims and offenders in road-safety incidents, but the more important perspective is that pedestrians, like all other vulnerable road users, are the ultimate losers in these conflicts whether they were right or wrong.
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If you’re crossing the street, it’s best to use a crosswalk. Pedestrians who jaywalk or cross the street at locations without proper markings dramatically increase their risk of being hit by vehicles, writes John Ducker. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Summer is the season for distraction. Beautiful weather, more people out and about and an endless number of “things” going on make it easy to take your mind elsewhere.

Pedestrians are both victims and offenders in road-safety incidents during this weather, but the more important perspective is that pedestrians, like all other vulnerable road users, are the ultimate losers in these conflicts whether they were right or wrong.

Often going through town I see people glued to their devices operating in a different dimension from the rest of us.

Pedestrian control lights seem to merely be an indicator that allows you to walk across a street — anyway you want — as long as you’re somewhere near that little flashing person sign. Doesn’t matter what it’s directing you to do — just cross as you please.

Busy six-lane roadway? Just cross in the middle of the block regardless of how heavy or how fast the traffic is moving.

I’m amazed how much power some pedestrians give over to other road users. It seems at times they place total confidence in the ability of others using roads to spare them from catastrophe.

That’s an incredible leap of faith and pedestrian fatality figures are bearing that out.

The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) recently reported that the province experienced 392 pedestrian fatalities in 2022 — 45 more than the year previous — and up 13.2 % over the yearly average from 2017 to 2021.

In B.C., we lost 56 pedestrians in 2021, with another 2400 being injured.

It’s not all about pedestrian behaviour by any means. Bad driving, particularly those traditional culprits: distraction; drug and alcohol impairment and; speeding account for a big percentage of these deaths and injuries.

My point here is to emphasize that when you’re walking around our streets it’s “game on” and we all need to pay more attention to the actual world in which we are tramping around.

The problems lie in a few key areas.

Intersection dangers — both drivers and pedestrians are increasingly distracted by mobile phones, electronic devices, and other activities. When drivers or pedestrians are not fully focused on the road, they are more likely to miss each other’s presence and make poor decisions, leading to collisions.

Jaywalking and unmarked crossings — Pedestrians who jaywalk or cross the street at locations without proper markings dramatically increase their risk of being hit by vehicles. Drivers don’t expect you to be there, so why take the chance?

Intoxication: This applies to both drivers and pedestrians. We deservedly pay a lot of attention to impaired driving but according to the U.S. National Safety Council pedestrian alcohol impairment was a factor in 41% of all pedestrian fatalities in 2020, accounting for 2,647 deaths. The pedestrian was the only impaired individual 25% of the time, the driver was the only individual impaired 10% of the time, while both the pedestrian and the driver were impaired 6% of the time.

Large vehicles — pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to accidents involving large vehicles like trucks and buses. The size and blind spots of these vehicles can make it harder for drivers to spot pedestrians. Never ever assume the driver of a large vehicle has you in sight.

Speeding and reckless driving — I often see vehicles doing 15 to 20 km/h faster than they should in pedestrian crowded areas. Speed reduces the time drivers have to react to unexpected situations involving pedestrians. Reckless driving behaviours, such as overtaking in pedestrian zones or ignoring traffic signals, pose severe risks to pedestrians.

Parking lots — many pedestrian accidents occur in parking lots where drivers may not expect pedestrians, and pedestrians might not be as cautious as they should be. I’m amazed how many pedestrians simply keep on walking behind or beside a car backing out of a parking space. Your assumption that a driver sees you is, frankly, misguided.

Visibility Issues: Poor visibility conditions, such as bad weather, darkness, or poorly lit areas, can make it challenging for drivers to see pedestrians. Please stop wearing all black at night or at least carry some kind of light.

In a distracted world, pedestrians have an equal stake in keeping our roads safe just like vehicle drivers. Vehicle’s come out of these collisions with bits of broken equipment — pedestrians not so much.

Glove Box. This seems to be a thing recently: Last week, in North Queensland, Australia, a man was pulled over for driving a ride-on lawn mower while impaired. He told the officer he was en-route to mow his daughter’s lawn. Problem was it was 1 a.m. The man told the officer after being stopped: “Go on then. Whack it on me.” The officer complied. The man blew 191 in a breathalyzer and is due in court next month.

johntcdriving@gmail.com

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