I spy with my little eye…
I spy with my little eye something that is…moving. Huh? Remember playing “eye spy” when you were a kid? I taught my kids that game when they were little and it was a good time-filler while waiting in the dentist’s office or the doctor’s office. I now teach that as a driving instructor for Young Drivers of Canada. It’s not really a game when I’m teaching it to drivers; it’s more like a necessity.
I use this technique at intersections before making a turn, especially while waiting before making the turn. In most jurisdictions, while waiting to make a left turn your vehicle is often far enough forward at the intersection that pedestrians and cyclists may “sneak up” on you just before you make the turn. While waiting for a gap in the traffic, most drivers tend to focus their attention on the oncoming traffic. It makes sense since they are looking for a space to drive through. However, while your attention is up the road, a pedestrian or cyclist may come up behind you along the sidewalk from your left and as you make that turn they step into your path.
Pedestrians can easily hide in the “A” pillar as they walk through crosswalks. Drivers who spend more time looking ahead and not regularly checking the crosswalk can miss seeing these pedestrians “hide” in the “A” pillar area. These photos can show you exactly what can happen.
It’s your responsibility as a driver to ensure the way is clear before making any turn and this includes anyone in the crosswalk. I often see drivers begin the turn, only to stop partially across the road because a pedestrian or cyclist was crossing. They had the “walk” symbol and were doing what they were allowed to do. Remember, some pedestrians and cyclists aren’t drivers and therefore won’t think like drivers. You need to be the “bigger person” and watch for them since they won’t always watch for you.
Years ago I head a student who wouldn’t check his blind spot to check for cyclists and pedestrians before turning. He didn’t think it was such a big deal…until one day when we witnessed an extreme close call. While stopped in traffic waiting to make a left turn at traffic lights, I noticed a cyclist riding along the sidewalk to our left. Looking ahead I anticipated the cyclist would reach the crosswalk at the same time the driver who was waiting in the intersection would have the gap they were waiting for. I asked my student to keep an eye on the young cyclist and he did.
Just as I predicted, the driver who was turning left began their turn just as the cyclist got into the crosswalk. The cyclist responded quickly and hit their brakes. The driver making the turn did just that; made their turn and kept going. If the cyclist wasn’t paying enough attention they would have been struck by the driver. However, if the driver of the vehicle turning left made a quick glance over their shoulder before beginning their turn, this entire close call wouldn’t have happened.
Take a few moments to always think ahead while driving. Keep an eye out for pedestrians and cyclists that may be in your path a few seconds later. Be a proactive driver. Lives depend on it.