Drivers show no respect for pedestrians on pedestrian crossings

Dear Editor,

It is evident that the rising rate of road fatalities has done little to make errant drivers do an evaluation of the way they use the roadways. One would think that these senseless accidents would make an impression on the mental faculties of careless drivers, thus creating a behaviour change, but that is like trying to catch the tail of a dream.

Something is decidedly wrong with the way our drivers use the roadways. The level of impatience demonstrated by drivers generally is abysmal. It seems as though we are always in a hurry and this has nothing to do with the Christmas season, which is not to say that the season should be a pretext for drivers to act irresponsibly. Whenever there is traffic congestion and there are vehicles in front which you cannot pass, rest assured that your eardrums will be bombarded with the sound of blaring horns from those behind you.

And there is no relenting at the traffic lights. As a matter of fact, it gets worse there. At least four seconds prior to the light changing to green, some vehicles are already in motion. And drivers who seemingly slip into a slumber momentarily at the change-over are sometimes in receipt of profanity and a tongue-lashing. However, what I find most appalling is drivers’ blatant disregard for the pedestrian crossings. It is my considered opinion that most drivers do not fathom its significance. The manner in which some drivers treat pedestrians on the crossing is contemptuous and highly reprehensible. Once a pedestrian is poised on the crossing, that person is ready to cross. Unfortunately, many drivers are seemingly oblivious of the pedestrians’ presence and simply proceed at breakneck speed along their way. Hence, if the pedestrian wishes to cross, he or she is forced into waiting until the flow of traffic reduces significantly, cross at their own risk or proceed at the discretion of a considerate driver. And, invariably some who permit pedestrians to cross feel as though they are doing the pedestrians a favour by stopping.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at a pedestrian crossing in the vicinity of La Penitence to allow a schoolchild to cross. I had given the drivers behind me ample notice via hazard light and hand signal that I was stopping; they followed suit. However, as the child was approaching the other side of the crossing, a motorcyclist sped past the cars stopped at the  crossing but almost collided with the child. I glanced into my rearview mirror and saw the driver behind me hold his head in anguish.

I have seen pedestrians literally sprint across the crossing. Why should this be?  Pedestrians should not have to scurry across or be apprehensive about doing so once they have signalled their intention in advance to cross. It is to avoid this that pedestrian crossings are there.

Conversely, I have been fortunate to see drivers in other countries display a high level of respect for pedestrian crossings.  Once pedestrians congregate at the crossing, there is almost an abrupt stop of vehicular traffic to allow them free movement. For me, it was a culture shock to see how civilly, respectfully and responsibly these drivers discharged their duties on the roadways.

I am fearful that if these errant drivers are not admonished or penalized, something catastrophic will happen on one of those crossings in the future. I am therefore exhorting the police to look out for this infraction as well. If a few of those drivers are made to suffer, we might just see some changes.
Yours faithfully,
Raul Khan

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