Drivesmart column: Why didn’t the pedestrian cross the road?

Pedestrians and drivers must know their part

By Tim Schewe

When the drivers stop to give a pedestrian in a crosswalk the right of way, unless there is a compelling reason not to, the pedestrian should take it and proceed.

Yesterday I stopped, along with the driver to my left, to enable a man standing in the middle of four lanes of traffic to cross.

He didn’t. Instead he stood his ground and motioned for us both to carry on. We hesitated, but when he continued to motion us on, we continued on our way, as did the stream of traffic behind us.

Why would he choose to take the risk of remaining in the middle of the road when everyone was providing a safe path to proceed? In this case, misguided politeness created confusion and this was not a good thing from everyone’s perspective.

Perhaps the man did not realize that he was using an unmarked crosswalk and was mistakenly following what he thought was his duty to yield to traffic.

I’m sure that if you asked many drivers if there was a crosswalk present at this intersection you would receive a negative response. Unless there is paint across the roadway some drivers don’t think that they have to yield to pedestrians.

Crosswalk or not, all drivers have a duty not to collide with a pedestrian wherever the pedestrian might be on the highway.

I’ll pause here to remind everyone that a highway is not just a major numbered road. The legal definition includes many instances that could surprise you.

In this situation, the driver beside me and I did what the law required us to do, that is to stop and let the pedestrian cross.

Sometimes pedestrians don’t feel comfortable crossing or prefer to let traffic by. That’s a valid choice too, but some ways are better than others to accomplish it.

This pedestrian could have chosen to walk a couple of hundred metres along the highway to the next intersection and use the marked crosswalk there. Traffic signals at that intersection could provide a more orderly situation in which to cross.

Why does it seem that most pedestrian safety training information is aimed at children and their parents? If not, it seems to be that the message contains pedestrian crash data. While some adults may think that they know the rules a bit of a refresher could be in order.

You might not think of it, but a pedestrian that causes a crash could be sued by the others involved for damages.

Crossing the highway is all about managing risk and is not something to be undertaken lightly. Pedestrians and drivers must know their part and play it for safety.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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