by Nancy Hamelin
We’ve all been there: it’s 9:49am, you slept in, but had promised to meet your friend for coffee before class at 10:30am. You’re walking, listening to your favourite song, texting your friend to let her know you’ll be late; you get to the intersection. The hand is flashing but the timer says three and you think that you have plenty of time to cross. Music blaring, phone vibrating, and… WHAM!
This is one side of the story. The other is mine. I too woke up late this morning. Traffic is a nightmare, as per usual, but my car stereo says it’s 9:49am, and I’m almost at the parking lot. All I have to do is make that left-hand turn, find a spot, and I can still make class on time. I’m watching the traffic patiently, waiting for a break to make my turn. There’s a gap, the light is yellow, I’m in the middle of the road, it’s now or never… WHAM!
In my story, I’m fine. The airbag didn’t deploy, I have no physical injuries, and there’s hardly a dent in my car. In your story, you wake up in the hospital the following day with a broken leg and a concussion. You were lucky! You can’t believe you got hit by a car, and you don’t understand why it happened, as the sign said you had three seconds left.
What most pedestrians don’t realize is that the timer does NOT trump the signal. If the hand is flashing, you are not supposed to cross; however, if you are already in the middle of crossing, it provides you with a count of how much time you have left before the light changes.
As a driver, I see people crossing when the hand is flashing far too often and it worries me. I have many things to watch for: my speed, other cars, traffic signals, buses, and of course – you. The problem is that while I am watching out for all those things, I too am using that timer to calculate how much time I have left before the light changes and my car gets smashed for being in the middle of the intersection. Sadly, if you walk out in front of me at the last minute, it will certainly hurt you more than it will me.
Campus is notorious for drivers who must be on constant guard for reckless pedestrians. While it is ultimately my responsibility not to hit you, the “hit me and pay my tuition” mentality is putting you in danger. I am aware that pedestrians have the right of way, but unfortunately, my car will hurt you whereas you may not even leave a dent, and I really don’t want to hurt you!
So what is the moral of the story?
First: respect the rules of the road. I have to follow the traffic laws and signals, and so do you. If I am already committed to the turn, I can’t wait but you can.
Second: if your music is so loud that you can’t hear the cars around you, you may want to consider turning it down for your own safety. You can often hear a car coming before you see it.
Third: be patient. Everyone would rather see you arrive a couple minutes late than attend your funeral.
If you would like to brush up on the laws for roadways as well as for pedestrians, please check out the MTO website and remember, we all need to be respectful and watch out for each other.