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COMMUNITY COLUMNIST: Puddles, pedestrians and drivers — oh my!

Sometimes we’re torn between doing the proper thing and letting things go. Sometimes our good intentions get in the way of safety. We either do the right thing, but it isn’t the safest thing, and sometimes it’s the opposite. Do you ever have these same feelings as well?
Recently we had a big snowfall and there were large snow banks at the side of the road. This was followed up with milder temperatures and some rain. The obvious happened: large puddles at the side of the road. That’s normally not a problem for us as drivers, but it can be a problem for any pedestrian walking too close to the puddle when a vehicle passes by them.
Not only am I a driver, but I’m also a pedestrian. I walk roughly 30 minutes a day most days and I do enjoy it. Whenever I see a puddle on the road and I’m getting too close to it, I look around to see if a vehicle is approaching. I hate getting soaked, especially when it’s so cold outside. I feel for any pedestrian having that happen to them; however, there are times when we can’t avoid driving through the puddle, such as a single lane in each direction or if there’s too much traffic to change lanes safely.
As I was heading to work recently, I spotted a driver slamming on their brakes to avoid soaking the pedestrians on the sidewalk. This act of kindness almost resulted in that driver getting struck from behind. I appreciate them trying to help keep those pedestrians dry, but when they’re putting their vehicle, themselves and other vehicles at risk, is it worth it?
It’s a two-way street when it comes to puddles, pedestrians and drivers. As a pedestrian, I look for the puddles and the approaching drivers and time my passage past the puddle when a driver isn’t going to soak me. If I have to cross the street at the corner, I wait well back from the corner so as not to get soaked by a passing vehicle. If a pedestrian stands at the edge of the sidewalk at the corner in front of a puddle and a vehicle passes by and soaks them, they only have themselves to blame, correct? Wouldn’t they see the puddle and stand back to avoid getting soaked?
As a driver, I’ll try to change lanes early if I see a large puddle and pedestrians close by. If I can’t change lanes, I may reduce my speed early so I can give the drivers behind me plenty of time to respond to my actions. However, I can’t put myself at risk with other road users because a pedestrian isn’t paying attention. Or can I?
In some jurisdictions, deliberately splashing pedestrians is illegal. In Japan you can receive a ticket worth $65 if you’re convicted. In other jurisdictions, such as the UK, it is an offence to perform a clear act of incompetence, selfishness, impatience or aggressiveness which causes inconvenience to other road users. It’s actually listed in the Road Traffic Act, but it’s a matter of interpretation.
Regardless of whether it’s a law or not, you have to do the safest thing for you and those around you. Besides, I’m sure there’s a better way to make a splash with someone.
Scott Marshall is a Mountain resident and Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada. He can be reached at smarshall@youngdrivers.com.
The Mountain News is all about the people who live on the Mountain. If you would like to write in this space, call editor Gord Bowes at 905-664-8800 ext. 335 to discuss your idea.

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