Stopping is not an option
Camrose, we have to talk.
You know I love you, and this may come across as nitpicking, but it is a matter of safety.
I fully admit that when it comes to driving, this is one of the most pleasant places I have ever lived, and I have lived in many places. Except when it comes to one particular area, the inability of drivers to properly and safely handle four-way stops and intersections in general.
To be blunt, pedestrians should not be taking their own life into their hands when they are crossing in a crosswalk. Weekly, however, I see people of all ages having to dance the dance of “Oh crap, here comes a car,” when they are half-way across the road.
I am told the current situation is much improved from a few years ago. Const. Adam Belanger from the Camrose Police Service Traffic Unit tells me there were 10 pedestrians hit by vehicles while crossing at intersections in Camrose in 2015. Last year there were two, and on Sunday Camrose had its first reported incident at 48th Avenue and 50th Street.
“We spent a lot of time on education, a lot of time talking to kids in the schools in conjunction with our school resource officer program and really educating people with a big focus on bus safety and crossing where it is safe to cross,” he said, noting the success of the School Patrol program in conjunction with AMA Road Safety.
Visual evidence in my day-to-day has me believing this may partly also be due to the grace of God. A couple of weeks ago I watched in horror as a woman narrowly missed getting hit by not one but two vehicles in the crosswalk, turning from opposing entries into the intersection, no less. The kicker is she had started her Frogger-esque trek before either vehicle entered the intersection. This was not some random intersection, this was right downtown, just off of Main Street.
On Friday, I watched as an elderly woman — cane and all — struggled getting into the intersection by the Royal Bank, while a man pulled up in a truck next to her, saw that she was starting out and began his turn before stopping half-way through the maneuver and allowing her to then cross. No, this was not some young punk just learning to drive either.
Almost every other day I watch as a driver rolls through their stop sign, all the way through the intersection before stopping in front of the crosswalk. Meanwhile, someone who is already crossing the road now has to stop and figure out if the driver is going to let them proceed. This also blocks the intersection causing confusion and holding up traffic coming from perpendicular directions.
Pedestrians downtown, however, are usually protected by the fact there are so many stops signs and low speed limits. It does not take any responsibility off the driver from following the rules of the road, though.
The intersection that concerns Belanger the most is at 41st Street crossing 48th Avenue with kids on their way to school in the morning.
“That cross walk is very dangerous,” he said. “By design it’s a bad intersection, it has very poor sight lines. It is one area I am really mindful of because I have responded to pedestrian collisions there and it’s not fun. It’s one that I always watch really closely.”
The City of Camrose addressed one of the other major areas of concern in 2016 with pedestrian crossing lights on 48th Avenue and 56th Street.
This is not just an issue for pedestrians, as collisions in general at intersections are still high, and this is a province-wide problem. In Camrose, there were 168 intersection collisions in 2016. In 2012, there were 86, in 2013 there were 131, in 2014 there were 181 and in 2015 there were 190.
Safe driving and handling of intersections becomes even more important at this time of the year with the often-icy roads and a sun that rises later and sets earlier every day.
So, a quick refresher for drivers on how to handle an intersection. Approach them cautiously. Come to a complete stop at the stop line. This means letting the vehicle rest back on its wheel base — if you haven’t felt the car rock back, chances are it is not considered a complete stop. Next look both ways. Look for pedestrians. They have the right of way. Always. Once they’ve cleared in the direction you want to go then look for other traffic. If you are the first car to reach a four-way intersection, you get to go first. Do not try to be polite and wave other vehicles through, it just causes confusion. They cannot read your mind. If both cars reach the intersection at the same time, the car on the right has the right of way. If you look out your passenger-side window and there is not a car wanting to cross in front of you, this means you are the car on the right.
Crossing the road, while always involving some risk, should not cause panic attacks or be the source of intimidation by impatient drivers.
Camrose, you have shown an ability to improve in this area, but there is still a ways to go.