Hergott: Safe driving behaviours

Lawyer Paul Hergott writes about second nature “every time” behaviours on the road

Two readers added to the list of safe driving behaviours I had offered last week.

These are behaviours, like looking at mirror blind spots behind your vehicle before reversing, that you can get away without doing most of the time. But then you’re rolling the dice on causing another tragedy like the death of the baby at the drive in on Montreal’s South Shore last month.

To stop rolling the road safety dice, they must become second nature “every time” behaviours.

The important driving behaviour Andrew contributed comes up if you are waiting for a red light to change to green. Don’t treat the light change “…as if it’s some kind of ‘green go’ for the Grand Prix”, but instead take a moment to ensure it is safe to proceed before hitting the gas.

He specifically mentioned the possibility of a crossing vehicle blowing their red light or a late starting pedestrian who hasn’t made it fully across. There are all sorts of circumstances, including emergency services vehicles that can pop up any time, that can result in tragedy if you don’t take that moment.

Most of the time you can drive as if in a zombie trance following traffic lights and signals. And many drivers do. If you blindly expect that the intersection will be clear for you when the light turns green you are rolling the road safety dice.

Please follow Andrew’s lead, while heeding his warning: “Of course always be prepared for the dim wit behind who slams their hand on the horn because you have not raced away on the green”.

Michael’s contribution has to do with signaling for a right turn.

I share Michael’s pet peeve about drivers who fail to signal their intention to turn.

If you are going to turn off the roadway, out of the way of traffic that is waiting for you so they can proceed, failing to signal your intention (or waiting until the very last moment before you start your turn) is not only unlawful and potentially dangerous, it is discourteous.

It is discourteous because your laziness or sloppiness, however you categorize it, makes others wait.

But Michael’s road safety contribution is the opposite problem. Says Michael: “…but even worse are the drivers who signal a right turn, then proceed to drive straight through.” His road safety behaviour: “I always wait until I see the vehicle commit to a turn before I start to drive forward.”

Most of the time you can absent mindedly assume that other road users will follow through with their signaled intentions. But doing so is rolling the road safety dice.

By waiting a couple extra moments to see clues like the vehicle slowing or shifting position in the lane, you can assess whether the signal is intentional or has been absent-mindedly left on. And being on high alert will decrease your reaction time if the signaling driver changes their mind at the last moment.

Some of us learned these behaviours when beginning to drive, from our parents or in driving courses. Some were learned “the hard way”, through the experience of close calls or actual collisions.

Our roadways would be safer if the road safety behaviours listed in the last two columns became second nature for everyone. If you have any ideas about how to raise awareness and reinforce the adoption of these behaviours, or have more to add to the list, please e-mail me.

Missed last week’s column?

Hergott: Don’t villainize those involved in tragedy

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