Watch Out for the Other Guy

Not too long ago my colleague, Stephen Anderson, wrote a great article titled “You’ve Got a Green Light, But I’d Still Look Both Ways”. It was essentially about being aware of your surroundings and planning for the unexpected.

Today I want to talk about something that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time. That is safety while driving on the roads. Why is it when the weather gets nasty some people seem to forget the rules of the road?

Recently in Toronto we had an evening of heavy snow and freezing rain. The next morning many neighbourhoods experienced power outages as a result. The newspapers estimated that over 25,000 Toronto Hydro customers were in the dark. The roads were slippery and there were numerous intersections with traffic lights out. I had to drive a lot that day and at each 4 way intersection I waited for my turn to go through, always being aware of my surroundings and looking out for the ‘other guy’. I was astonished to see that many drivers went through the intersection without a concern for other drivers. It was like being in a smash up demolition derby! Over the course of the many hours I drove that day, I witnessed too many accidents, no doubt as a result of drivers crossing at the wrong time, or being too aggressive.

We need to all remember when the traffic lights are out at an intersection it is to be treated like a 4 way stop. The first vehicle to come to a complete stop at the intersection has the right-of-way. If two vehicles arrive at the same time and they are facing each other, the left-turning vehicle must yield to the oncoming vehicle. If two vehicles arrive at the same time and are perpendicular to each other, the vehicle on the right has the right-of way. And drivers are to cross the intersection one at a time. Not in bunches!

It’s always a good idea when arriving at an intersection to assume the other driver is going to make a mistake. If need be, let confused or aggressive drivers go first. The delay in applying a little patience may only be a few seconds, but those seconds may be life-saving seconds.

Just last weekend I avoided being T-boned at an intersection on a rural road north of my home. I was travelling southbound, and my road did not have a stop sign at the intersection; so I had the right of way. I saw a car to my left coming west on the crossroad and he had a stop sign but didn’t show any sign of slowing down as he approached the intersection. Just as I anticipated, he didn’t stop! Good thing I was aware of my surroundings and slowed down. Not only did that driver not stop at the stop sign, neither did the car following him!

What’s the message here? You need to be aware of your surroundings and assume the worst of the ‘other guy’.


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