parent opinion

'The one polite act every driver needs to stop doing, because it’s downright dangerous.'

Polite drivers; they’re an absolutely blessed scarcity on the roads these days.

The friendly wave of ‘thanks’ when you let someone cut across in heavy traffic, generous merging allowances, and a cautionary flick of the headlights to warn of a hazard (*cough* speed camera) ahead are heart-warming in a society where impatience and road rage reign supreme.

But there is one polite act that really needs to stop, because it’s actually downright dangerous.

As someone who is a pedestrian more often than a driver, I find this action particularly frustrating as I come across it on a daily – or multiple times daily – basis.

I’m talking about drivers who stop to wave pedestrians who are waiting to cross the road over.

There are times where pedestrians have the right of way and you do need to stop. For example, if you’re turning left at an intersection, at a zebra crossing, when pedestrian crossing lights are flashing, and when performing a U-turn.

But if you’re just driving along the street and stop to wave waiting pedestrians across the road – especially if they’re children – you’re putting them in danger.

You can be polite and wait for them to cross, but you can’t predict or dictate the behaviour of other drivers around you who may get impatient and overtake you, not seeing the pedestrians and collecting them as they step out in front.

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"As someone who is a pedestrian more often than a driver, I find this action particularly frustrating as I come across it on a daily – or multiple times daily – basis." Image: Supplied.
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Drivers coming in the other direction also may not be prepared to stop, or they may stop suddenly, causing a collision that may or may not involve the pedestrians.

The other really difficult thing is that pedestrians cannot see you behind the wheel. Making eye contact so you can communicate your intentions used to be a big part of being a road user, but the window tinting on most modern cars makes eye contact impossible.

When you’ve stopped, I actually cannot see you; I can only see that you’re stopped and sometimes some vague hand-waving.

No doubt this is also frustrating for you, because you’re being kind and I’m standing on the footpath squinting and trying to decide whether to risk walking out.

Sometimes, this results in that really awkward stop-start scenario, where I’ve decided to go, but at the same time, you’ve decided I’m taking too long and put your foot on the accelerator. It’s really dangerous.

The other danger behind this action is that people often do it for children, especially around schools. I can see that they think they’re doing a good thing in helping kids get across the road safely, but aside from the problems I’ve already mentioned, it sets kids up to have a false sense of security in believing that cars will stop for them, rather than learning to use the road correctly.

In this one circumstance, I beg you (drivers) to stop being so polite. Learn when you have right of way and take it, and just continue to drive carefully, especially around schools.

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