When it comes to the rules of the road, the law of gross tonnage is always the final arbiter. That's why, no matter how big your truck is, you always stop for the train. However, it's important for those behind the wheel to remember that they are in a position of power, and their power needs to be exercised safely, and responsibly. And, given that there are pedestrians and cyclists on the road with drivers, it's important to adopt certain habits to make sure you give those people their space. These tips are brought to you by the Soofer Law Group, Esurance, and DC.gov.
5 Tips on Sharing the Road with Cyclists and Pedestrians
Tip #1: Beware The Parking Lot
Most drivers are worried about hitting someone walking on the side of the highway, or clipping a cyclist on a busy city street. However, a little more than half of accidents with pedestrians happen in parking lots. Maybe it's because you're distracted looking or a parking spot, or because it's one of the few places where cars and pedestrians are sharing space, but you need to be extra aware when you're cruising the lot.
Tip #2: Yield to Cyclists and Pedestrians
The rules of the road very clearly lay out who has the right of way, and when. We all have to learn those rules in order to get our driver's licenses. However, if there is a pedestrian or a cyclist, it's better to just give them the right of way, and wait a few extra moments. Because if they go when they're not supposed to, you're a little inconvenienced. If you go when you're not supposed to, the consequences can be dire.
Tip #3: Practice Active Awareness
You know how you never noticed any cars of your make and model until you bought it, and then suddenly they were everywhere? It's because you had no reason to be aware of it, but now you do. You can make your brain do the same thing with pedestrians and cyclists. You simply need to practice active awareness, and force yourself to see them when you drive. It may take some time and practice, but it can make avoiding problematic situations a great deal easier if you develop the habit.
Tip #4: Minimize Your Distractions
While this is a good driving tip in general, it's particularly useful for drivers who want to be sure they avoid the most vulnerable people on the road. If you have the radio blasting, a friend talking, and you're trying to answer the phone while sipping at your coffee, it's going to be really hard for you to notice the 5-year-old who darted out from between two parked cars to grab his ball. While no one is saying you should drive in complete silence, keeping your head on a swivel like the world's most boring commuter robot, simply ask yourself how many distractions you're operating under. Now reduce them, and you'll find you have the attention to be much more aware of other hazards on the road.
Tip #5: Be Aware of Blocked Vision
A game you can play as a driver is, "can I see behind that?" Whether it's your blind spot on the highway, or a row of parked cars on a suburban street, you need to be aware not just of what you can see, but what you can't. Being aware of those blind spots means you'll be less surprised when someone darts out of one of them, because you'd flagged it in your mind as a potential threat. Once you get into the habit, this will become second nature to you when you get behind the wheel.
Above all, remember that everyone has an obligation to be aware of each other on the road, and to drive safely and with care for others.