SENIORS PLANNING TABLE: Pedestrians share responsibility for their own safety

It’s not only up to drivers to watch out for those on foot or scooters

The Semiahmoo Seniors Planning Table – formerly the Seniors Health Network – each month explores a different health-care topic with local professionals.

This month, Ramona Kaptyn answers a question about pedestrian safety.

So many pedestrians are being hit and injured by cars these days. Don’t pedestrians have the right-of-way?

Answer: One of my claims to fame is that I once authored a ‘Driver’s Handbook’ whilst working in public relations for the ministry of transportation and communication in Ontario. There were, and still are, distinct rules on how drivers need to respect pedestrians, not only in the east, but in all provinces, including B.C.

However, there are rules for pedestrians, too, so may I offer a refresher on how to keep safe now that the days are short and visibility is poor, especially on rainy days?

Seems everyone rushes out and buys a grim black coat the minute the weather turns inclement. Black coat, black umbrella, black shoes – need I go on? Drivers cannot see you in the dark or on rainy days when you are wearing dark colours. Be very aware of this.

Also, it seems many of us think it’s perfectly reasonable to walk behind or in front of moving cars at shopping malls. Please know that drivers cannot see you dart or even stroll behind them when they are already reversing. No, you do not have the right-of-way when the vehicle is already reversing.

Where you do have the right-of-way is on crosswalks and at lights. But that does not mean just walking out when the light changes. Be sure the driver is going to stop. Make eye contact with the driver and then step out. And please don’t stand so close to the curb that a driver making a right-hand turn on a red light can nip your toes. To my absolute horror, I have seen mothers push their baby strollers slightly out onto the road at corners while waiting for the light to change. Imagine what would happen if a driver took too close a turn.

Back in December, 1999, I was hit by a vehicle while crossing the road and ended up in hospital. I required a hip replacement a decade later due to the damage done. I saw the driver but knew he couldn’t make a left-hand turn, so I ventured out. Boom, next thing I knew I was face-to-face with the windshield of a big green SUV. Was it his fault? Yes. Was it my fault? Yes. Why? Because I was crossing just a few metres away from a stoplight. I was jaywalking.

Please, please, don’t be like me and never assume anything. Here is a list of how to keep safe as a pedestrian.

• Always cross at designated lights or crosswalks. Don’t jaywalk;

• Always push the flashing-light signal when crossing at crosswalks;

• Pay attention to your surroundings – don’t talk, text or listen to music on your phone;

• Ditch the earbuds/earphones. You won’t hear warning sirens or horns;

• Don’t cross when there is not enough time. A short wait can save your life;

• Watch for signals. Be sure you don’t cross before the pedestrian light has turned green. Often there is an advance green for cars turning. Stepping out is extremely dangerous and happens more often than you think;

• Always wait for traffic to come to a full stop before attempting to cross. Don’t just step out when the light changes;

• Always watch for drivers turning into a crosswalk;

• Always make eye contact with drivers before crossing;

• Always be visible. Wear reflective armbands, vests, some light-coloured clothing or carry a flashlight;

• If you have a walker or a scooter, make sure it has reflective strips or lights on it.

Be safe, and happy walking.

Ramona Kaptyn is president of CARP White Rock/Surrey Chapter 11 and sits on the steering committee of the Semiahmoo Seniors Planning Table.

The Semiahmoo Seniors Planning Table is a group of individuals, self-advocates and representatives from various levels of government, non-profit agencies and businesses that are concerned with the inclusion and well-being of older adults living in the White Rock/South Surrey community. Contact amccorkell@comfortkeepersvancouver.ca

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