Pssstt… ordinary motorist: you there, ferrying your kids to soccer, you over there, trying to get to work on time, and you too, just out running errands. We have a special mission for you. It could save a life. Do you accept?
This National Road Safety Week, May 17-23, the Canada Safety Council is reminding motorists that the way we drive can save lives.
Over the last three decades, the rate of fatalities among vehicle occupants has been dropping steadily, but much less progress has been made in the protection of “vulnerable road users” — pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. In 2012, the latest year for which statistics are available, vulnerable road users accounted for more than one in four of the 2,077 fatalities recorded on Canadian roads.
As the weather warms, more people are on the roads, including more children and seniors, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. In the summer months, fatal collisions are more likely.
The road system is in need of heroes. If you’re a driver, that hero could be you.
How to Drive Like a Hero:
- Focus. Distracted driving and driver inattention are becoming a leading cause of collisions in Canada. Any collision with a vulnerable road user has the potential to be deadly. Let the calls and texts wait, you’re on important business! Turn off your electronic devices or lock your cell phone in the glove compartment if you have difficulty resisting the temptation to text or check your notifications while driving. Remember, hands-free is not risk-free.
- Be on the lookout. Always scan ahead for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, who can be difficult to spot. Be especially vigilant around intersections, and when making turns. Do not let your guard drop after you’ve stopped your car — develop the habit of shoulder checking before opening vehicle doors to avoid dooring someone who may be passing on foot or two-wheels.
- Remain calm and courteous. Everyone is trying to get somewhere. Be especially patient with children and the elderly who may have more difficulty judging the timing and speed of traffic.
- Check your speed. When the roads are filled with speed demons, it takes a real hero with bravery to stick to the speed limit. Your decision to drive at or below the speed limit can empower others to do the same. Every kilometre over increases stopping distance and reduces your effective field of vision. When the weather warms and the roads are dry, more children are outside. Stick to the speed limit, and you could save a life. A small difference in travelling speed can be the difference between life and death when it comes to collisions with vulnerable road users.
- Leave lots of space. Remember that anyone on two wheels is able to brake much more quickly than a car. They may also need to swerve around gravel or potholes, so always leave lots of space between your vehicle and cyclists or motorcyclists. When passing a cyclist, slow down and leave a minimum of one-metre berth. If possible, change lanes. If there is insufficient room in the lane to maintain a respectful distance, stay back, and wait until you can pass safely.
More things you can do to protect the vulnerable:
- If you’re in the market for a new car, consider purchasing one with an advanced collision avoidance system or a model that is equipped with pedestrian protections like popup hoods.
- Say no to “bull bars” or grill guards. These rigid metal bars are often added to vehicles for aesthetic reasons, but they significantly increase the severity of injuries to vulnerable road users in the event of a crash.
- While traffic calming and automated photo enforcement may be frustrating to some motorists, remember that these measures do ultimately reduce the number and severity of injuries.
- Take fewer car trips. Join the active transport revolution by taking more trips on foot, bicycle and public transit. One less car on the road makes the road that much safer for everyone.
- Advocate for more pedestrian and cycling friendly infrastructure in your community.
It’s true vulnerable road users who are hurt on the road are more likely to be the young or elderly, and may be inexperienced, distracted, or unschooled in the rules of the road, but the fact remains that most fatal collisions are caused by driver error. Drive like a hero and you just might save a life today.
Source: Canada Safety Council