Pedestrians, pay attention—even if you have right of way

Watch where you walk

A man I observed in a parking lot started me thinking about how little care we sometimes take for our own safety when we are pedestrians.

I was preparing to back out of my parking spot and put my truck in reverse. Then I scanned to the rear before letting up on the clutch. The man crossing behind me did not slow down, or even bother to look to see what my intentions were. Perhaps he didn't notice my truck was idling and the backup lights were on.

The most recent collision statistics published by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia are for the year 2020. The provincial five-year average, ending in 2020, shows 2,400 pedestrians were injured and 52 died in collisions.

One might guess children were most likely victims due to being impulsive and inexperienced. But that was not the case. The majority of fatalities involved pedestrians over the age of 50. Older pedestrians were also in the majority when the injured were counted as well.

Why is this happening? Contributing factors on the pedestrian side included making an error, being confused, being under the influence of alcohol and failing to yield the right of way. On the driver's side, it was being inattentive, failing to yield the right of way and making an error or being confused.

I walked part way to work recently and encountered a woman leaving a driveway I was about to cross. She noticed I checked my stride and was making eye contact before I moved into her path. She must not be used to this as she called to me and told me I didn't need to worry, I could cross and she wouldn't hit me. I appreciated the communication and was confident that I could pass in front of her safely.

The underlying idea here is that a pedestrian has to take responsibility for his or her safety, even if it means giving up your right of way to an inconsiderate or inattentive driver. Keep your head up, make eye contact and never move from a place of safety unless you are absolutely certain a driver has seen you and presents no threat of collision.

You may also want to consider not using items that draw your attention elsewhere, such as music players and cell phones when you are walking on a highway.

There are rules about parking, stopping and even standing vehicles

Park, stop or stand

Parking, stopping or standing, what's the difference and why is it important to you as a driver? Recognizing these road signs and knowing what is allowed and what isn't with regard to these three situations can mean the difference between your convenience and being ticketed and towed for ignoring or mistaking them.

Let's start with the simplest of the three concepts, stopping. To state the obvious, when your vehicle ceases to move, you are stopped. The term is defined in Section 119 of the Motor Vehicle Act:

"stop" or "stand" means,

(b) when prohibited, the stopping or standing of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or to comply with the directions of a peace officer or traffic control device;

If this road sign is posted and your wheels quit turning, you're in violation of the rules that prohibit stopping. This is usually a bylaw ticket, but if you are outside of municipal boundaries police may choose to write a violation ticket instead. There are no penalty points for this but the fine is generally $35. Double parking attracts double the penalty at $70.

Standing is somewhere between stopping and parking. Your vehicle is motionless but someone in control is still inside or around it. It is not a common sign and the violation occurs when everyone walks away.

The penalty for disobeying a No Standing sign is the same as No Stopping.

The last situation to examine is parking, where you get out of your vehicle and walk away for a period of time leaving your vehicle unattended.

It is allowable to stop in a no parking zone for the purposes of loading and unloading as explained in the definiton of park:

"park", when prohibited, means the standing of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, except when standing temporarily for the purpose of and while actually engaged in loading or unloading;

As it is with standing, the ticket penalties are the same as they are for improper stopping.

If it is necessary to avoid conflict with traffic or to comply with the law or the directions of a peace officer or traffic control device, the rules about parking, standing and stopping may be disregarded.

Within a municipality it is more common to deal with stopping, standing and parking under the provisions of bylaws. Municipalities may create bylaws that must be consistent with the Motor Vehicle Act. These bylaws are usually published on the internet.

Arrows may be shown on the bottom of these signs to help you decide where the boundaries of the zone are. If the sign has a single arrow at either the right or left sign, you are looking at the end of the zone that is in effect in the direction of the arrow. If the sign has two arrows, one pointing in each direction, you are somewhere inside the zone.

The current version of the B.C. Manual of Standard Traffic Signs and Pavement Markings consists of 244 pages! It shows examples of both the sign or marking and explains how they look and are used in our province.

In contrast, the chapter on Signs, Signals and Road Markings in the provincial driver's manual Learn to Drive Smart is only 12 pages.

Putting the use of vehicle driving lamps in the spotlight

Driving lights

A reader asked: “Are you allowed to drive with both headlights and driving lights on at the same time?"

The question was prompted by the person's complaint of being blinded by the lights of many of today's vehicles. These vehicles display two headlights and two of what many people assume to be driving lights.

According to vehicle lighting expert Dan Stern both “driving lamp" and "driving light" are widely misunderstood terms. People use them to refer to all kinds of different lights. They sound like a kind of lamp you can use whenever you're driving, but that's not the case.

In fact, driving lamps are auxiliary high beams. They're designed to add to the reach of the high beam headlights. Unlike low beams, their beams are not designed to control glare at all, so driving lamps are effective, safe, and legal only for use together with the vehicle's main high beam headlamps on dark, empty roads (or off road) — never with low beams, never by themselves, never in traffic, never in bad weather and never within glare distance of other vehicles ahead, in either direction.

Driving lights are identified by the markings SAE-Y on North American lamps or the letters HR above the circle containing the E on European lamps. You are allowed to install two of them that must display white light.

They must be mounted between 40 cm and 1.06 m from the ground level and aimed so that the high intensity portion of the beam is, at a distance of 8 m from the lamp, at least 12 cm below the height of the lamp and, at a distance of 25 m from the lamp, not higher than 1.06 m from the road surface. The lateral aim is +/- 150 mm at a distance of 7.62 m from the lamp.

All measurements are made to the centre of the lamp.

In addition, these lamps must be wired so they only come on when the high beam headlights are illuminated. This is usually accomplished through the use of a relay that is triggered when the headlights are switched to high beam.

This would mean a driver would shut off driving lights no closer than 150 m to another vehicle being approached or overtaken.

Driving lamp glare elimination is the ultimate responsibility of the driver of the vehicle using them. Keeping them clean and properly adjusted will solve many complaints and dimming them responsibly will solve most others.

Enforcement is the responsibility of the police and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, as the use of this type of lamp is not regulated by the federal government through Transport Canada.


Why is the highway designed that way?

Highway design

Do you ever wonder why some aspect of the highway you are driving on has been designed that way?

It starts with the Transportation Association of Canada's Geometric Design Guide for Canadian Roads, is supplemented by the Geometric Design Guidelines for B.C. Roads, may require compromise due to local conditions and ends up being what you see through your windshield.

I received this:

Some time ago, I wrote to the engineer in charge about the speed limit of 90 km/h at intersections with traffic signals on the Inland Island Highway.

I requested an explanation of the limit at these intersections and also why the 90 km/h limit was placed so far away from the intersection. Not only do most motorists ignore the limit at the intersection, I would guess that (all) ignore the limit where the signs are posted. I never received an answer.

The police have advised me it is necessary to slow to 90 km/h at the sign, although there seems to be no logical reason to do so.

I have often thought that it must be a real challenge to be responsible for highway design here in B.C. Not only do you have mountains and rivers to span—hopefully within budget—you also have to contend with the behaviour of the people who drive on them.

In examining my own perceptions, I often think some things are not logical too.

Most often, if I try hard enough, I can find out the answers but sometimes not. However, it can be dangerous to disregard something that has been carefully planned by professionals based only on your own assessment of logic.

The short answer I have received in the past is something along the lines of "design practices call for it to be done that way."

I imagine that is the polite way of saying they probably couldn't distill a university degree and years of experience into a 10 minute conversation in a way I would understand enough to see the point.

Unless research shows a better way, this is probably the safest approach because we know the outcome.

One example from my collision analysis training might be a vertical view obstruction. The highway looks nice and straight, but a dip in the road can hide a small car entering or exiting at a side road or driveway completely.

The posted speed might be 70 km/h even though 90 k/h looks fine. But 70 km/h is needed in order to perceive and come to a stop in time if something should be hidden in that dip.

That might not seem logical until you understand what is involved.

I can't provide a definitive answer to the question, but I would encourage you to learn more on your own.

The Internet can be a wealth of information, both in web publications and the ability to communicate with knowledgeable people who will take the time to answer.

Don't be discouraged because some engineer failed to answer, rather, consider it a challenge.

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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