HERGOTT: Don’t believe in blind luck while driving

HERGOTT: Don’t believe in blind luck while driving

Lawyer Paul Hergott’s latest column

“Holy Mary Mother of God”. Though it was about 25 years ago, I remember the moment my mother uttered those words like it was yesterday.

She was getting back into driving. I was along for support.

We were stopped facing a stop sign at 13th Avenue, a busy street in Regina, Saskatchewan. Parked cars along our side of 13th avenue blocked our view.

Her words did nothing to calm my panic when she hit the gas.

My mother was not intending to put us, and others, at risk. She felt it unsafe to pull forward past the stop sign to look for a safe break in traffic because that, in itself, might put us in harm’s way.

She thought it safer to just quickly go for it.

We made it across. Divine intervention? I think blind (literally) luck.

A “Jesus take the wheel” approach to stop signs is (I hope) an exceedingly uncommon one.

But there are much more common scenarios where we think nothing of proceeding completely blind towards potential hazards.

The scenarios I am referring to arise when one lane is flowing while another lane (or lanes) have come to a stop.

This regularly occurs with HOV lanes. Only those with more than one occupant can cruise past while others are gridlocked.

It also occurs when a left turner, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, blocks traffic coming from behind. Traffic will move over to the right to get past. Often even if there isn’t a designated lane.

If the stopped vehicles are low profile sports cars you can see over, no problem.

But stopped traffic often blocks your view of what might be happening ahead of it. And vice versa.

An oncoming left turner, or crossing driver, might be taking the opportunity to make their way across the street in front of the stopped traffic.

They might have been waived across by a lead stopped vehicle.

They might be slowly inching forward, aware of the possibility that a vehicle might be coming up the curb lane. Or they might be oblivious.

It might not be a vehicle. It might be someone walking their dog, pushing a stroller, out for a jog, on a bicycle or roller blading.

You can’t see them. They can’t see you. Each of you is as blind to potential hazards as my mother was when facing that stop sign.

And each of you faces the same choice.

You can choose to reduce your speed and increase your vigilance so that you can react safely. Or you can rely on divine intervention.

Do you, cruising up the empty curb lane, have the absolute right of way? What about the pedestrian at an unmarked crosswalk? What if the crossing vehicle, facing a stop sign, had slowly started across when you were still half a block away? Over the next two columns I will be sharing the results of actual court cases where judges have wrestled with how to assess liability in these scenarios.

But who cares about liability? Let’s care about safety this Season, and for all of 2020. Embrace whatever higher power you might embrace, but please don’t let them take the wheel.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Salmon Arm Observer’s annual food drive is underway. For donations of one or two bags of non-perishable items, donors receive a gift certificate from one of several participating local merchants. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm merchants, Observer team up for food drive

Gift cards and certificates available for donations of non-perishable items

Emergency crews respond to crash just before midnight on Trans-Canada Highway east of Salmon Arm. (File photo)
Two pick-up trucks collide head-on on Trans-Canada Highway near Salmon Arm

Police report drivers survive crash late on Nov. 29, taken to hospital

Okanagan College students Michael Ochoa and Tallin Gregoire, both members of the Okanagan Indian Band, raised the Okanagan Nation Alliance flag on July 16, 2019,  outside the Vernon campus. (Karissa Gall photo)
First Nations reconciliation personified at Okanagan College

President Jim Hamilton’s foresight has opened post-secondary education doors for Okanagan College’s Indigenous students

“Am I racist?” signs like the one standing on the west end of Salmon Arm are part of an anti-racism campaign launched in November 2020 by B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner. Hate crimes have been rising in B.C., particularly during the pandemic. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
‘Am I racist?’ sign in Shuswap part of B.C. campaign to combat racism

As hate crimes rise, Office of Human Rights Commissioner would like citizens to examine inner biases

As of Nov. 30, online appointments for Interior Health’s blood lab at the top of Tank Hill will be done through the health authority’s new online booking tool www.labonlinebooking.ca/login. (File photo)
New system to launch for Salmon Arm lab services appointments

Interior Health transitioning to different online booking tool on Nov. 30

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

An impaired driver was found responsible for a crash on Highway 97 near Seacrest Hill in Oliver Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020 in Oliver. (Black Press file photo)
Impaired driver rolls vehicle in violent crash near Oliver

Vehicle crashed through a fence, tree and telephone line

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Good Samaritan Mountainview Village located at 1540 KLO Road in Kelowna. (Good Samaritan Society)
Outbreak declared at Kelowna long-term care home

Two cases announced, including the first case of the virus among care home residents in Interior Health

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

The missing snowmen were found down the road Monday after being removed from their rightful places Sunday, Nov. 29. (Contributed)
Missing snowmen go for an evening stroll in Okanagan

Large Mrs. Snowman cutout apparently went for a walk

A Summerland municipal employee has tested positive for COVID-19. (Summerland Review file photo)
Summerland municipal employee tests positive for COVID-19

Employee now self-isolating and recovering at home

Most Read