Hey, People Who Drive: Here Are Some Tips on How Not to Hit People Who Walk or Bike

CC BY 2.0. Whether you’re at an all-way stop or the “big fat white line” of an intersection, you have to stop at it, not in it./ Lloyd Alter

The Toronto Star's list is useful but incomplete.

Forty-one people who walk were killed in Toronto this year by people who drive. As we noted earlier, the reaction from the Chief of Police was that people who walk should take out their AirPods and, from the man in charge of Vision Zero, that they should wear yellow vests. So it was with some relief and gratitude when I saw Mary Warren's article in the Star titled How not to hit a pedestrian in Toronto. She spoke to driving instructors, looking for their tips on how not to hit a pedestrian or cyclist. First tip:

Don't be distracted.

©. Foxy Burrow/ Shutterstock -- no distractions here.

© Foxy Burrow/ Shutterstock -- no distractions here. This is a lot more than just phones: “Kids in the back saying ‘are we there yet?’ or your overly enthusiastic co-worker in the carpool is asking you questions about the quarterly report numbers.”

Peter Mellor, a driving instructor with the Advanced Measuring Bureau school and past judge on “Canada’s Worst Driver,” adds that you can be “equally distracted, if not more so” by the thoughts in your own head. If you’re not concentrating on your driving, “nothing else is going to matter, really,” he says.

This is something we have covered on TreeHugger before, in Study shows that “zoning out” is the biggest driving distraction. There is a reason that it happens, according to the study:

For most people, driving is a highly-overlearned task. Consequently, many of the tasks of everyday driving—lane and speed maintenance, stopping at signaled intersections, etc.—tend to occur relatively automatically. In addition, many trips are routinized with drivers taking the same routes back and forth to work, the grocery store, or other frequently visited locations, which further promotes automaticity, allowing attention to be devoted to other activities. The routine nature of the driving task, particularly along familiar or monotonous routes, creates an environment ripe for internal distraction or mind wandering.

Some people actually like this; a woman explained how she enjoys a long commute. "I get to really zone out and just be me in the car, thinking about life and or just listening to music or whatever.” It's a real problem when our cars become mobile living rooms, and now often the only place people have where they get to be alone with their thoughts.

Back in the Star, another driving instructor reminds us that a car is not a moving living room, but heavy machinery. “Drivers should always try to stay cognizant of the fact that they are operating very heavy vehicles and travelling at high speeds,” adds Zalmay Rahmanyar of Honours Driving School.

Develop good habits.

Toronto driver stops in intersection

Toronto driver stops in intersection/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0 Stop when you should. I really like this one. The number of cars I see blocking the pedestrian walkway is ridiculous.

“The furthermost portion of your vehicle should come to a complete stop,” DiCicco says. “The nose of your vehicle, not the tires.” This also gives some room in bad weather, especially if you haven’t had time to put on those snow tires yet. Otherwise, you risk sliding into a pedestrian stepping off the curb, someone you’ll have hit without even knowing they’re in your way yet.

Other good habits include Making sure you can see through clean windshields, Check before you open the door and give out the door prize, and Considering the Point of No Return.

Perhaps the most important one in the story is Communicate with pedestrians and cyclists. This is not the horrible "make eye contact" that pedestrians are told to do through tinted windows five feet off the ground in a pickup truck, but through proper signalling. Really good advice for dealing with cyclists too:

If there’s an obstacle in the cyclist’s path, like a parked car or a snowbank, be mindful that they might have to move over from the rightmost lane. “If you spot a cyclist in front or beside you, keep an eye out for parked cars or other obstacles and expect them to change lanes or manoeuvre closer to you. Drive slower and wait for them to go back to the rightmost lane before trying to pass them,” Rahmanyar says.

There are some surprising gaps in the Star story, the most important one being Stick to the speed limit. In the USA fully a third of fatal crashes are blamed on speeding. In cities, it is even higher.

Another might be Don't drive an SUV or pickup truck. Why chose a vehicle that is known to be 3 times as deadly for pedestrians?

And finally, one might suggest Try walking or riding a bike once in a while. Know how it feels to be out there. I suspect that if more drivers saw the other side of the story, they might be more empathetic.