Does your head turn to the right? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it does. And if it does indeed, then you better damn well be turning it that way whenever you’re turning your vehicle in that direction.
If you don’t, you could possibly kill someone. And I’m very tired of frequently finding myself in the situation where it could be me.
Here’s what happens. A driver comes up to a stop sign or a red light, intending to turn right. He or she looks to the left for oncoming traffic. When it clears, the driver starts to make the right-hand turn – but doesn’t bother looking to the right as well. Exactly why is something I’ve never been able to figure out. It must be one of those tunnel-vision things where traffic is the only thing that matters.
Problem is, there might be a pedestrian walking across from right to left, and is now in the path of that turning vehicle’s trajectory. And there, for lack of a quick glance to the right, you have the potential for serious or fatal injury.
Here’s the scoop, people. Unless it’s for a quick shoulder-check when changing lanes, you should never move your vehicle, not even a little, unless you’re also looking in that direction. Before you take your foot off the brake, look to the right. Even if you checked before those last two or three cars came by, check again. Someone coming up quickly – a runner, a skateboarder, someone on a bicycle – might have reached the corner in moment, and now they’re going to be in your line of fire.
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I walk a lot, and I’m not too proud to tell you I’ve banged on a lot of hoods, and kicked a number of car doors, when drivers start to move when I’m crossing on my green light. Pedestrians need to be aware as well – I haven’t been hit (so far) because I assume every driver’s going to be dumb enough to do this, and so I’m always on my guard – but it’s still up to those behind the wheel to smarten up. Those on foot need to make eye contact with drivers before they cross the street, but with so much tinted and UV-protected glass in vehicles, sometimes you simply can’t see the driver, no matter how hard you try. And that makes it tougher, as I stand waiting on the corner, watching my “walk” signal tick down, because I can’t make eye contact and I have no idea if I’m destined to become a hood ornament if I start across the road.
And when you’re at the stop, don’t just tilt your head to the right to look at the corner. Before you move your vehicle, give a quick check in your passenger-side mirror. You’re looking for pedestrians or cyclists coming up behind you. Even if you’re turning right on a green light, check the sidewalk and curb behind you, because these folks may intend to go straight ahead, across your turn, on what’s also their green light as well.
For that matter, think about how every turn you make could affect someone. Turning left? Look at the opposite side of the intersection, at both corners, to see if someone’s crossing. Too many drivers start to turn, realize someone’s walking across, and then have to wait sideways across the intersection. That leaves them vulnerable to traffic coming at them, and any resulting collision could affect those pedestrians as well. Don’t even think about starting your turn until you’re sure you have a clear path to the other side.
If you’re making a right-hand turn, but you have to wait for people to cross the street, sit with your wheels straight ahead. Never point them in the direction you intend to turn. If you get hit from behind, you’ll get spun right into those pedestrians.
The bottom line is that if your head turns, then turn it, and turn it a lot. Pedestrians and cyclists are vulnerable road users, and it’s your responsibility to watch for them. Never assume the way is clear, even if you recently checked it. It only takes a split second of your time for you to look both ways. That simple turn can take a lot longer if you don’t.