Pedestrians are key participants in our transportation system. A trip taken by foot requires no gas, creates no emissions, reduces traffic congestion and even improves the individual’s health. Just as they share the road with other cars, it is important for motorists to stay alert to the presence of pedestrians. Every mode of travel has equal priority on the road, and it is the motorist’s responsibility to yield to a pedestrian.
Any person on foot, such as a runner, walker or a mother with a stroller, is a pedestrian. A pedestrian can also be someone who uses roller skates and skateboards or a person with a disability on a tricycle, quadricycle or in a wheelchair. It is your responsibility as a driver to be on the lookout and to take every precaution possible not to injure a person on foot. If you see a vehicle, pedestrian or children near the road, you should slow down and be prepared to stop.
There are three types of persons who most often become pedestrian fatalities: the small child, the older person and the drinking public. In the case of very young children, a responsible driver will always check around his car before getting into it to be sure no child is in the vehicle’s path. Walking from behind parked cars is a very common action in fatal accidents involving a pedestrian. All three types of pedestrians that we mentioned commit this dangerous action. A child chasing a ball gives no thought to an oncoming car. His mind is strictly on play, and he may dart into the street quite suddenly. Some older people may not be able to move as quickly as younger persons, and they may have sight or hearing impairments, making it difficult for them to see a car or to judge its distance. A drinking pedestrian may have his senses and his judgment impaired.
As a responsible driver, you should always slow down and be prepared to stop quickly when you are driving on streets lined with parked cars. You must also react in the same manner when you come upon any situation where people are gathered alongside of the street or highway on which you are traveling. Night is a particularly dangerous time on rural highways for pedestrians. Sounding the horn of your car as a warning is always a good idea when you are faced with a vehicle-pedestrian collision. It may warn the person on foot in time for him to stop or move out of the road. The law acts to regulate pedestrians’ actions as well as your actions as a motorist.
At the crosswalk you should yield by slowing or stopping for a pedestrian who is on your side of the roadway, or who is close enough to your side to be in danger. Unless they are at an intersection or within a marked crosswalk, pedestrians must yield to vehicles. Pedestrians must walk facing traffic. In entering an intersection on a green signal, a driver making a right or left turn is required by law to yield to pedestrians on the cross street lawfully within the intersection. Do not stop in a crosswalk.
Blind pedestrians have special protection under the law. South Carolina law requires that a driver must stop and yield the right of way to a blind person who has entered a street carrying a white cane or is accompanied by a guide dog. Whether the pedestrian is handicapped or not, you as a driver should always be willing to give the pedestrian the right of way, regardless of whether he has it or not. Again, slow down and keep a watchful eye in all areas where pedestrians are located—urban areas, around schools and institutions and street and highway intersections—and all other places where groups may be congregated.
Take your responsibility seriously; keep your eyes open for him. After all, every person is a pedestrian at one time or another...and that includes you.
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As a driver, you have a responsibility to be on the lookout for cyclists. Treat him courteously, since he does have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers to use the streets and highways. Cyclists are part of the normal traffic flow and are entitled to share the road with other drivers.
A growing problem for drivers is the inability to see the bicyclist. The motorist is very often technically at fault in a bicyclist-motor vehicle collision. The most common reason given is “I just didn’t see him.” Sometimes he may be in the “blindspot” of your car. You should constantly check the “blindspot” by looking over your shoulder, checking your rearview mirror and by moving your eyes from side to side in anticipation of the bicycle rider.
Cyclists must ride in the same direction as other traffic, not against it. A cyclist may, but is not required to, ride on the shoulder of the roadway. They may ride in a lane other than the right-hand lane if only one lane is available that permits the cyclist to continue on his intended route. They should normally ride in a straight line as near to the right curb or edge of roadway as practical. Cyclists can legally move left to turn left, to pass a parked or moving vehicle, another bicycle, an animal or to make a turn, avoid debris, or other hazards.
A cyclist may indicate a right turn by extending the left arm upward, by raising the left arm to the square, or by extending the right arm horizontally to the right. A left turn is indicated by extending the left arm horizontally. A decrease in speed or stop is indicated by extending the left arm or the right arm downward. A cyclist is not required to give signals if the hand or arm is needed to control the cycle.
A ‘bicycle lane’ is the portion of the roadway or a paved lane separated from the roadway that has been designed by striping, pavement markings, and signage for the exclusive use of cyclists. When a bicycle lane has been provided adjacent to the roadway, motor vehicles may not block the bicycle lane to oncoming bicycle traffic and shall yield to a cyclist in the bicycle lane before entering or crossing the lane. Cyclists are required to ride in the bicycle lane except when necessary to pass another person riding a bicycle or to avoid an obstruction in the bicycle lane. However, cyclists may ride on the roadway when there is only an adjacent recreational bicycle path available instead of a bicycle lane.
Remember, it is unlawful to harass, taunt or maliciously throw an object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle. Here are some of the critical points to remember:
- When attempting to pass a bicyclist, you must treat the bicycle as any other vehicle you would pass.
- Allow for the bicyclist to make mistakes. Watch for swerving cycles and sudden turns.
- The horn should be used to attract the bike rider’s attention and not as a threat to get out of your way.
- Drivers must be careful when driving close to cyclists and should maintain a safe operating distance between the motor vehicle and the cyclist.
- Before passing a cyclist in a narrow traffic lane, wait until the traffic is clear in the opposite lane and then change lanes to pass the cyclist. Do not attempt to squeeze past the cyclist.
- Leave ample room when turning right after passing a cyclist so the cyclist is not cut off when you slow for the turn.
- Even with a proper headlight and rear reflector, a bike is still difficult to see. Use extra caution after dark, especially in poorly lighted areas.
- Automobile drivers should anticipate cyclists at parks, playgrounds, near schools and especially in residential areas. Night is a very difficult time for the bicycle rider and the automobile driver; alertness is required from both.
- After parking on streets and before getting out of a motor vehicle, the driver and passengers should be careful not to strike a bicyclist when opening car doors.
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Motorcycles have the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers on the road. However, it is more difficult to see them. There are special situations and conditions drivers need to be aware of so we can safely share the road with them:
- Motorcycle operators have the right to use a complete traffic lane and two motorcycles may share a lane. A car should not try to share a lane with a motorcycle.
- A motorcycle’s size can easily move into a car’s blind spot. Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking all mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
- Never assume a motorcycle is turning when you see a turn signal flashing. Motorcycle turn signals may not turn off automatically. Do not pull out in front of a motorcycle unless you tell they are turning.
- Signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic to allow the motorcyclist time to anticipate traffic flow.
- Obstacles and road conditions can sometimes be easily maneuvered around by a motorist, however, can be deadly to a motorcyclist. Be prepared for sudden changes in lanes or speed as they avoid road hazards. Allow room for the motorcyclists to maneuver.
- Follow the same rules for a moped as listed above.
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There are many crashes between cars and commercial vehicles each year. To actively prevent these crashes from occurring a driver must remember large vehicles:
- Do not maneuver like a car. It takes longer to stop and accelerate a large vehicle and they need more room to turn.
- Have much larger blind spots than cars even though a truck driver sits higher above the road than a person driving a car.
The No-Zone is areas around large trucks and buses where cars cannot be seen. These blind spots are found on the sides, rear and front of a large vehicle.
- Side No-Zones - The Side No-Zones are located on both sides of large trucks and buses. Trucks have a larger blind spot on the right side starting behind the cab and extending the length of the truck. If you cannot see the driver’s face in the side mirror, they cannot see you. Always avoid driving beside a large vehicle for long periods at a time.
- Front No-Zones – Due to the size and weight of trucks and buses they take longer to stop than cars. Therefore it is essential to not enter a roadway or change lanes in front a large vehicle. When changing lanes make sure you can see the entire front of the vehicle in your rear-view mirror before pulling in front a large vehicle. It is important to maintain the same speed while doing this.
- Rear No-Zones – Blind spots for large vehicles can extend up to 200 feet directly behind the vehicle. The large vehicle cannot see your car and you cannot see traffic directly in front of you. Avoid following a large vehicle too closely and position yourself so that the driver can see you easily. When possible, avoid driving in the right lane when traveling up and down hills and when approaching truck weigh stations where large vehicles will be re-entering faster moving traffic.
- Turning - Truck drivers must make wide turns in order for the rear of the truck can clear corners and curbs. It is very important to pay close attention when a large vehicle uses turn signals. Do not pass a truck until it has completed turning as sometimes it uses space from other lanes to clear corners.
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Emergency vehicle drivers must drive with regard for the safety of other highway users. Under emergency conditions drivers may violate certain rules of the road such as driving faster than the posted speed limit, going through a red light or stop sign after slowing down, parking in places where it is usually prohibited, and disregarding rules covering direction of movement or turning.
Some emergency vehicles have sirens and flashing red lights or a combination of flashing red and blue lights. These lights help the emergency vehicles move quickly through traffic to assist emergency calls. The different types of emergency vehicles include ambulances, fire department and police cars.
As a driver when you hear a siren or an emergency vehicle approaching you should pull over to the curb or the edge of a road and stop. For one way streets drive parallel to the road edge closest to you. Avoid intersections when possible. After the emergency vehicle passes, check the traffic around you before you return to the roadway. You must keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the emergency vehicle. During an emergency situation you must obey any uniformed officer.
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A work zone is any type of road work which may delay traffic conditions. Work zones usually involve lane closures or detours. Sweepers, line painting trucks, mowing equipment and heavy machinery are common moving equipment in work zones.
Work zones on highways have become increasingly dangerous for workers and drivers. When approaching a work zone watch for materials such as cones, barrels, signs, large vehicles, or workers to warn you and direct you where to go. All temporary signs in work zones have an orange background and black letters or symbols. These signs can be found on either side of the road and tell you what and how soon you will encounter a work zone.
Most work zones will notify the driver of any speed limit changes. Speed reductions are intended for the safety of workers and motorists. Reduced speed limits are clearly posted within the work zone and if there are no reduced signs, drivers should obey the normal speed limit.
Keep the following tips in mind while entering a work zone:
- Slow down and obey posted speed limits.
- Follow work zone sign instructions and those given by a flagger.
- Remember work zones can change daily, including lane shifts and closures.
- Be extremely cautious in a work zone at night.
- Watch the traffic around you and be prepared to react to what the traffic is doing. Be ready to respond quickly if necessary.
- Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers. Most importantly, don’t tailgate.
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If you are pulled over by a police officer, pull over to the right side of the roadway and stop your vehicle as far away from traffic as possible to ensure safety for both you and the police officer.
Turn off the engine, radio, CD player or any other device which may get in the way of communication with the officer. If it is nighttime turn on your hazard flashers and interior lights to help the officer see. Roll down your window to communicate with the officer.
It is important that you and your passengers remain calm and keep your safety belt fastened. Keep your hands on the steering wheel and limit movements. If the officer asks for your driver’s license, proof of insurance and/or vehicle registration tell the officer where it is located and slowly reach for them. Remain in the vehicle at all times unless requested by the officer to get out. Always answer questions clearly and fully.
Never run from the police as it is dangerous. Many fatal crashes occur from police chases. The consequences for running from the police are more severe than the initial traffic violation.
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