In June alone, three pedestrians have lost their lives crossing the street in greater Edmonton.
On June 8, 13-year-old Darian Mar was riding his bike home from school in St. Albert when he was struck by a daycare van and died in hospital.
On June 17, 57-year-old Wanda Draginda and her dog, Tiggr, were hit in a marked crosswalk in the Lewis Estates neighbourhood.
Then on Friday, a four-year-old little boy died in hospital after colliding with a car in the cul-de-sac in front of his Mill Woods home. Police said he ran into the side of the car and then hit his head on the pavement.
In 2015, 12 pedestrians died in Edmonton, and in 2016, that number dropped to 10. Over that two-year span, not a single cyclist was killed on city streets, according to the city’s most recent Motor Vehicle Collision report.
Karam Sarohia, a driving instructor at Noble Driving School, says the onus is on both parties when it comes to safety.
“Drivers should be more responsible, as well as pedestrians. It’s a shared responsibility,” he said.
Sarohia said new drivers often don’t know when pedestrians have the right of way and when they should stop. In his school, drivers must always be cautious.
“Every intersection, every crosswalk, marked or unmarked, sign or no sign — you must look for the pedestrian. Running into a pedestrian can cost a life, and you have to live with that your whole life.”
Even when someone is crossing illegally, Sarohia said drivers must stop.
“Sometimes, there’s jaywalkers on the road. If they’re standing on the sidewalk, proceed with caution. But if they step on the road, you must stop and let them cross,” he explained.
“If you see the driver in the next lane is slowing down or stopping, you must slow down or stop. Maybe a pedestrian is ready to cross or is already crossing.”
In his experience, new drivers tend to have what he calls tunnel vision — focusing solely on the road right in front of their vehicle.
“Make sure you’re scanning the road ahead, 12-15 seconds in front of your car. When you’re scanning the road, you can see the pedestrian crosswalk sign or the intersection. At the intersection, check right to left, left to right, make sure the pedestrian is not there waiting to cross.”
He also says stopping early enough is key.
“You must stop at least three car lengths back from the intersection. Why you need to stop that far back from the crosswalk is two reasons. One: if you get rear-ended you will not hit the pedestrian. Second thing: If you’re stopping too close, you’re blocking visibility for the next lane driver.”
While he predominantly works with new drivers, he said longtime drivers can pick up bad habits as well — like distracted driving or rushing to a destination, two things that can increase the risk of collisions.
There is also a burden on pedestrians as well.
“When the pedestrian is crossing, they should look left and right and make sure the car is stopped.”
Sarohia recommends making eye contact to communicate with drivers, and sticking out an arm when crossing the street.
He said residential areas can be especially dangerous.
“Between parked cars, there’s a space and it’s not visible to you. Small kids that don’t know, they can run, they can start walking — you must be aware.”
The city committed $4.8 million towards crosswalks and pedestrian safety measures in 2017, and teams are currently working to determine where some of those infrastructure upgrades will go.
Gerry Shimko, executive director of the office of traffic safety, is asking council to look at reducing speed limits around houses to try and reduce pedestrian collisions.
“What will be a proper residential speed to help mitigate or reduce a lot of these very unfortunate situations which are taking people’s lives unnecessarily?”
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