Thursday, November 4, 2010

More Civility on the Roads

I received this letter from a reader several weeks ago. As I was sitting at my desk watching winter approach, I thought that perhaps a column addressing driving might be a good idea. Driving in the snow and ice of New Brunswick present its own set of problems. Let’s first address the concerns of this reader.

Dear Jay:

I was disappointed that your previous column, "Civility rules on the road, too," did not address civility between different users of the road, as for example, automobiles and pedestrians or automobiles and bicycles.

In particular, I wish that more automobile drivers were aware of the following:

1) Your "right" to make a right turn at a red light is limited by the presence of pedestrians crossing the road in front of you.

2) Even though pedestrian-activated red lights are not part of what you personally may consider to be part of the normal signal cycle, you are still required to stop for them. If you fail to notice them in time because you are driving too fast or because you are overly distracted, as for example by your cell phone, it is your responsibility to amend your behavior, not the pedestrian's responsibility to stay out of your way.

3) Where a sidewalk crosses the entrance or exit to a driveway or parking lot, pedestrians on the sidewalk have the right of way, as do cyclists moving along the right-hand side of the road. You are required to wait until the way is clear for you to proceed. Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can...

4) Cyclists are required to ride along the right-hand side of the paved roadway. They are not required to ride on unpaved surfaces, across broken glass, through potholes that would rip their front wheels off, etc. If the presence of a cyclist at the right-hand side of the paved roadway does not leave enough room for you to pass, this does not give you license to run the cyclist off the road. You need to wait until you have room to pass safely. Patience is a virtue...

And finally, a word addressed specifically to young male drivers:

While you personally may think it fun to yell at pedestrians and cyclists as you go by in order to see if you can make them jump, no one else thinks it's fun. Grow up - or turn in your license until you're mature enough to handle it.

S.R.W.

Dear S.R.W.,

Thanks for pointing out these important rules which people do tend to forget. There is a civility which must be practiced while driving, peddling and walking so no one gets injured. It is advisable for pedestrians to walk on the left side of the street, thereby facing into oncoming traffic. This enables them to clearly see approaching vehicles and step off the road surface if possible as they pass. Cyclists need to stay to the far right hand side of the road when motor vehicles are passing. In many communities there are actual bike lanes specifically designated for their safety. The addition of more of these lanes will only enhance the safety of those riding bikes. Motor cycles and automobiles must follow traffic rules carefully and be prepared for any surprises that a pedestrian or cyclist may present. Even though there are designated cross walk areas in many towns, out of town visitors, of which we have many here in this tourist town, may be unaware of them and are particularly vulnerable.

Children need to learn about traffic and traffic rules at an early age. Although there are often well marked signs prohibiting bicycles on sidewalks, a lot of folks are unaware of them. Children feel and are safer riding on the sidewalks, signs or no signs. However it is up to a parent to teach their children that pedestrians have the right of way on or off sidewalks. This is an easy way to begin to instill the concept of respect for other in the minds of our youth. Being aware of traffic safety regulations protects youngsters against traffic dangers.

As far as driving around here in the winter, the same rules apply. However, because it is far more difficult to stop or swerve on an icy pavement, great caution must be practiced. Test your brakes from time to time as road conditions change. Drive defensively and slower than you normally would. There are also deer that leap onto the road coming seemingly out of no where. To enable you to be as safe as possible in the winter, make sure your car is winterized by a licensed mechanic. Keep warm clothes or blankets in the car. Remember to charge your cell phone and carry it with you in case of an emergency. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. If you are going to travel a long distance, check road and highway conditions before hand to be prepared for any delays. By taking these few precautionary measures, your winter travel will be safer. Erring on the side of caution demonstrates the respect you have for your fellow travelers and for you as well.