Given recent tragic accidents there has been a lot of discussion about safety for pedestrians. Given that, I’d like to ask about the legality of the Caymankind habit of “beckoning”. At first glance, the kind gesture of a driver to slow down or stop, flick their lights and motion with their hand from the window to allow a pedestrian to cross the road would seem friendly. But in reality, in many cases that driver is putting themselves, the pedestrian and other vehicles on the road in grave danger.
I regularly cross one of our busy bypasses, near a roundabout, as a pedestrian. I am shocked at the frequency of a driver in one lane stopping and beckoning for me to cross, without checking behind them or taking note of the traffic in the other lane. I’m not going to engage in a game of Frogger, when I can easily wait for the eventual break in the traffic flow that allows me to cross safely.
It would be fantastic if the drivers all just checked their rearview and side mirrors before making an attempt to beckon me across. More often than not, I wave them along, trying to convey polite thanks for the gesture, but with a message of “Please let me make the decision when to cross, not you.” I’m often met with looks of shock, anger and dismay that I haven’t appreciated what they feel is a kind gesture. I have to ask, if the driver beckons you, you cross and an accident ensues, who would be to blame?
Auntie’s answer: I thought it best to seek the opinion of the RCIPS on this issue, though I will say that it makes me nervous every time I see a pedestrian crossing the road near or by a roundabout.
I realise that a person walking down the road doesn’t always have an option when it comes to dealing with roundabouts but the deadly accident last month that you referred to at the roundabout by Yacht Drive sadly reinforces my concern.
As for the aforementioned Caymankind practice of “beckoning” and stopping to let a pedestrian cross, an RCIPS spokesperson said, “It is not advised that motorists stop on a roundabout or on the exit of a roundabout for any reason whatsoever as this is dangerous with motorists coming from several different directions at once. That being said, it is also not advised that a pedestrian try to cross at a roundabout or at the exit of a roundabout.”
That makes sense to me.
The spokesperson added, “The roadway is a shared space and all persons — whether motorists, pedestrians or cyclists — have a part to play in ensuring their safety and the safety of others using the road.” That advice also seems logical, but the reader specifically asked about liability.
The spokesperson explained that it is “not the job of the police to say who is at fault in any motor vehicle collision”, pointing out that the “onus is on the driver” to ensure he or she is driving at a safe speed and distance from the car ahead, so if a sudden stop is required it won’t cause a collision. “It is also the duty of drivers to ensure that if they are stopping in the roadway to let a pedestrian cross, that the driver behind them has adequate time to stop.”
If an accident did occur under the scenario you describe, the spokesperson said, “All parties would have played a part in such an accident, including the pedestrian attempting to cross the street in an area where there is no pedestrian crossing or crosswalk sign.”
On a related point, anyone who has walked down Crewe Road, with its narrow lanes and lack of sidewalks, knows how unsafe it is for pedestrians. And that is only one road of many.
I think the answer going forward is to ensure all new roads are pedestrian-friendly and, where feasible, to modify and improve existing roads. Whether that will ever happen is anyone’s guess.