The best way to reduce the risk of a traffic crash is to practice safe driving behavior. Here are some helpful tips to keep you safe. All of the following information is readily available from driver handbooks and other government agencies:
When you’re behind the wheel of a car – whether alone or with passengers – driving safely should always be your top concern. We are more distracted than ever, so it’s crucial to know the basics of safe driving and practice them every time you’re on the road. Your safety, and the safety of others, depends on it.
It is the motorist’s responsibility to do everything possible to avoid colliding with any pedestrians. Bicyclists, skaters and skateboarders in a crosswalk or driveway are considered pedestrians. Turning motorists must yield to pedestrians at intersections with traffic signals. Motorists must yield to pedestrians crossing the street or driveway at any marked mid-block crossing, driveway or intersection without traffic signals.
In Florida, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle. Bicyclists using a public roadway are considered operators of motor vehicles and are responsible for observing traffic laws. With few exceptions, there is only one road and it is up to motorists and bicyclists to treat each other with care and respect. Adherence to the law is the foundation of respect.
The primary traveling aids for a person who is blind are often a white cane or a trained guide dog. Independent travel involves some risk that can be greatly reduced when you, the driver, are aware of the use and meaning of a white cane or guide dog.
Florida State Statutes specifically addresses motorist responsibilities as follows:
Whenever a pedestrian is crossing, or attempting to cross, a public street or highway, guided by a dog guide or carrying in a raised or extended position a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white tipped with red, the driver of every vehicle approaching the intersection or place where the pedestrian is attempting to cross shall bring his or her vehicle to a full stop before arriving at such intersection or place of crossing and, before proceeding, shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid injuring such pedestrian.
Simply put, that means drivers must always yield the right-of-way to persons who are blind. When a pedestrian is crossing a street or highway guided by a dog or carrying a white cane (or a white cane with a red tip), vehicles must come to a complete stop.
Drivers must yield the right-of-way to mobility-impaired persons and pedestrians utilizing the assistance of a guide dog or service animal. When a pedestrian is crossing a public street or highway and the pedestrian is using a walker, a crutch, or an orthopedic cane or wheelchair, vehicles must come to a complete stop.
On a two-way street or highway, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a stopped school bus that is picking up or dropping off children. You must always stop if you are moving in the same direction as the bus and you must remain stopped until the bus stop signal is withdrawn.
If the highway is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide, you do not have to stop if you are moving in the opposite direction of the bus. Painted lines or pavement markings are not considered barriers. You must always stop if you are moving in the same direction as the bus and you must continue until the bus stop signal is withdrawn.
Crossing guards are posted in areas when it is unsafe for children to cross alone. When you see a guard, reduce your speed. You are near a school and children are in the area. Watch for a school zone posted speed limit. If necessary, stop at the marked stop line. Never stop in the crosswalk. Obey signals from any crossing guard. It is the driver’s responsibility to do everything possible to avoid colliding with pedestrians. Remember that children are unpredictable. Do your part to make every crossing a safe crossing.
All drivers should yield the right-of-way to public transit buses traveling in the same direction which have signaled and are re-entering the traffic flow from a specifically designated pullout bay.
Pedestrians and drivers must yield the right-of-way to funeral processions. When the first vehicle in the funeral procession lawfully enters an intersection, other vehicles in the procession must have their headlights on as a signal to other drivers not to drive between or interfere with the procession while it is in motion, unless directed to do so by a law enforcement officer.
Drivers entering a road from a driveway, alley or roadside must yield to vehicles already on the main road. Motorists must yield to bicyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalk.
Pedestrians and drivers must yield the right-of-way to law enforcement cars, fire engines and other emergency vehicles using sirens and/or flashing lights. Pull over to the closest edge of the roadway immediately and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. Do not block intersections.
When driving on interstate highways or other highways with two or more lanes traveling in the direction of the emergency vehicle, and except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer, drivers approaching a law enforcement or other authorized emergency vehicle parked on the roadway with its emergency lights activated will be required to leave the lane closest to the emergency vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so.
Remember that emergency vehicles include wreckers that are displaying their amber rotating flashing lights and performing a recovery or loading on a roadside.
When approaching a law enforcement or other authorized emergency vehicle parked on a two-lane roadway with their emergency lights activated, and except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer, drivers will be required to slow to a speed that is 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit when the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or greater; or travel at 5 miles per hour when the posted speed limit is 20 miles per hour or less.
The men and women of the Lady Lake Police Department want to remind you that the extra effort as a defensive driver can reduce your chances of having a traffic crash. Isn’t that worth it?
Chris McKinstry is chief of police in Lady Lake.