Be wary of right hand drive vehicles

The first time one went by while we were collecting traffic data, I thought the car was being driven by a large dog. The second time, it looked at first like nobody was driving. And the third time, the driver didn’t have a steering wheel but the passenger did!

The first time one went by while we were collecting traffic data, I thought the car was being driven by a large dog. The second time, it looked at first like nobody was driving. And the third time, the driver didn’t have a steering wheel but the passenger did!

So I began wondering if youngsters crossing the street clue in faster than I did when a vehicle with right hand drive approaches.

According to Alberta’s Office of Traffic Safety, the correct process begins at a street corner or crosswalk and is as follows:

• First, POINT across the road with your arm to show drivers that you want to cross.

• Then, PAUSE until vehicles stop. Make eye contact with drivers.

• And finally, PROCEED with your arm extended when all vehicles have stopped. Keep scanning both sides of the road for hidden dangers. Drivers can’t always see you.

Make sure that your child knows and uses the POINT, PAUSE and PROCEED process when crossing streets. As the days become longer and warmer, there will be more young people and more traffic using the roadways.

There’s nothing in the crossing instructions, though, about whether the vehicle is left hand or right hand drive configuration.

If it is a right hand drive vehicle, the position where the driver normally is could be occupied by a pet, by a passenger, or it can be empty. All the more reason for youngsters to make sure vehicles come to a full stop before walking in front of them.

There were several people at Edmonton’s Urban Traffic Safety Conference earlier this month who were visiting from the right hand drive countries of England and Australia. As the Conference was closing, I asked them about checking traffic before crossing the street.

Two out of three said that, even after being here a week, their first impulse is not only to look in the wrong place for the driver but they also look in the wrong direction for approaching vehicles!

Transport Canada regulations do not allow right hand drive vehicles less than 15 years old to be brought into Canada. (The restriction does not apply to well-marked, special purpose vehicles such as Canada Post vans, street sweepers and waste collection trucks.)

In spite of their age, about 200 right hand drive vehicles are brought into BC every month, mostly from Japan. Because their crash rate has been 40 to 60 per cent greater than similar vehicles with left hand drive, Transport Canada is expected to increase the import age later this year to at least 25 years.

That will have a minor but welcome effect on reducing collision rates.

Last week, we didn’t see any right hand drive vehicles while completing the first three months of intersection checks for this year.

Our process starts by recording data on seat belt use by occupants, cell phone use by drivers, and signaling of turns and lane changes.

The results are combined into a single score for the week: if the weekly score total is 200 or greater, then $200 is added to the Safer Driving Community Fund. The money in the Fund is distributed every three months to the student councils of Red Deer high schools, the Student’s Association of Red Deer College, Neighbourhood Watch and two senior citizens’ organizations.

This time, Red Deer drivers scored 200 or more for 7 of the 13 weekly observations. Consequently, earnings totaling $1400 will be sent to the above organizations by mid-April. The detailed results are on our website.

Prior to this quarter, the best total was $1200 so that means Red Deer driving, as we see it, is improving.

That’s the idea behind what we are doing – to let people know how they can drive better, to encourage them to do so, to let them know if they are, and to pat them on the back when they do.

Drive safer — always.

Doug Taylor heads the LEA DRS Program, a cost-of-service Red Deer initiative for improving safety on public roads. You can contact Doug by telephone at (403) 342-2765, by email at info@leadrs.ca, or through the website at www.leadrs.ca.

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