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Letter to the editor 1, Jan. 28, 2021

Pedestrians on roads

Dear Editor,

Whether as a pedestrian out for a walk, or as a driver of a motorized vehicle, I’m always amazed how little attention pedestrians pay to their own safety and wellbeing. What I mean by that is the fact that more than half of those pedestrians I meet along the way are walking with the traffic instead of against it.

Whenever I read about yet another pedestrian hit and crippled or killed by a car or truck, I always wondered how come. Why didn’t that person at the last moment jump out of the way?

Now, after two very close encounter of this type by myself, me being the driver, I finally understand how such tragic accidents can, and do, happen. And the sad part is the fact, that some, or most of them, could have been avoided had the pedestrian faced the oncoming traffic and taken evasive measures to avoid being hit. It is not only the individual being injured or killed, and his or her family who suffer the consequences and grief associated, but also the driver who has to live with that guilty feeling for the rest of his or her life.

One of my close encounters was in the fall on a late afternoon. I had just driven through a dark wooded section of Saddlebrook when the street made a right turn and I was suddenly facing the bright sun low on the horizon. Being momentarily blinded, I instantly slowed down, and just in time too, before I would have hit a group of people walking on the right side in front of me. They were two mothers, side by side with their baby carriages, a few kids and a dog. When I opened my window and mentioned to them that it is safer to walk against the traffic, they barely listened and just kept on walking and talking as if nothing had happened.

My second close encounter happened one dark and rainy night when I turned from Chemin Saint-Louis onto Rue des Sables. Just a short way in, I was blinded by the high beams of an oncoming car. I went as far to the right side as I could and put up my high beams as well. And there, just a few feet in front of me walked a man, dressed all in black, walking his black dog. Had I not turned on my high beams, I would have never seen him and would have hit him dead on in the back. He made quite a jump when he heard my brakes, but when I opened my window and before I could say a word, he started yelling at me, telling me that I had nearly hit him and hadn’t I see his light? Yes, he had a miner’s lamp on his head alright, facing the way he was going. And yes, I did see that light as I was pulling away, in my rear view mirror.

By sheer luck, and only luck, those people were saved this time from injuries or worse. I myself never got completely over how close I had come to maybe killing some people, children and animals among them. And it always upsets me when I see people ignoring the rules and their own safety, literally leaving it all up to drivers to watch out for them. They themselves don’t seem to care because, if they get hit it will always the driver’s fault right? Never mind that they are crippled and that their families will have to look after them for the rest of their lives.

Now, whenever I see people walking on the wrong side of the road, I stop and remind them of the danger. However, very few people heed that advice and change sides. Some agree with me, but carry on nevertheless. And then there are those that remind me, that: a) this is a free country, b) it’s none of my business and that I should mind my own and c) (and that’s the best) I heard you coming. Really? And then there are the walkers with earphones who don’t even look up and respond to my car slowing down.

And to a point they are right. It is not my business to tell them what to do. That should be up to the parents and the schools to educate, the media to inform, and the police to enforce. But in all the cases I’ve read about so far, not even once did I read on which side the victims were walking at the time when they were hit. Is it because that just might put some blame on the victims themselves?

However, that would exactly be the right time for the media to once again remind the public that pedestrians should walk facing oncoming traffic and be prepared to take evasive actions if necessary, for their own safety and wellbeing and that of their loved ones and, indirectly, that of drivers as well.

And now in winter with dark and slippery and narrower roads, it is even more important to face oncoming traffic and to be prepared to take evasive actions.

Thanks for publishing this letter, a bit long-winded I agree, but if it saves just one life, I think it worth the while. And the occasional reminder of road safety in general throughout the year by the media would be appreciated as well.

Thank you,

Frank Heidt


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