People will do anything for a thrill, to feel the rush that comes from putting themselves at high risk. Some people go skydiving, while others opt for bungee jumping, cliff diving, rock climbing, parkour or extreme skiing. Less daring thrill-seekers find their kicks at the amusement park.
I prefer to get my adrenaline rushes close to home. Whenever I feel the urge to put my life on the line, to feel exposed, vulnerable and in extreme jeopardy, I simply put on my shoes, take a walk around my neighbourhood and use a few of our local crosswalks. When it comes to death-defying, you can keep your sheer cliffs and faulty parachutes. Nothing is more terrifying than using a crosswalk.
Being a pedestrian can be dangerous at the best of times. According to recent data from Transport Canada, pedestrians make up 15 per cent of motor vehicle-related fatalities and 14 per cent of serious motor vehicle-related injuries.
What makes the crosswalk so special is that there's something ironically exhilarating about feeling in jeopardy while using a system that's designed specifically to protect you. Then again, the name – "crosswalk" – is a bit of a giveaway; a cross is something we often use to mark a grave.
I've staked out the crosswalk at the end of my street for the last month, 10 or 15 minutes here or there (if you "stake out" a crosswalk for much longer, people become suspicious). I wanted to get a casual sense of just how safe pedestrian crossings really are. Based on my observations, I'd say that when a pedestrian has pressed the signal and begun walking through, one out of every 12 cars blows by without stopping. You'd be forgiven for thinking that pedestrians would be better off jaywalking (note: they would not).
The cause of faulty crosswalk use is straightforward: it's the drivers. You see, people drive cars and most people are awful, lazy, distracted drivers who should not only be prevented from operating vehicles, but should probably not be allowed to vote or use the Internet. On the other side are pedestrians. In order to properly use a crosswalk, you're supposed to raise your arm in a sort of quasi-fascist salute and make eye contact with the drivers who are approaching. Unfortunately, some pedestrians think a crosswalk works like an invincibility cloak, and so they just step into traffic while yammering on their iPhones.
The Ontario government recently introduced a law designed to increase pedestrian safety. As of Jan. 1, drivers must wait until pedestrians using crossovers have completed their entire crossing and stepped off the road. Crossovers are different from crosswalks, which are used at stop signs and traffic lights. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation defines crossovers, which often have overhead flashing yellow lights, as "designated areas that allow pedestrians to safely cross roads where there are no traffic lights." The law also applies to school crossings. Failure to obey the new law can result in a $500 fine.
Some people are confused. I can understand the problem. There's nothing worse than saying, "Oh my god, that guy just blew right through the crosswalk" when you should have said, "Oh my god, that guy just blew right through the crossover."
What I'm trying to say, dear drivers, is that, whether you're approaching a crosswalk or a crossover, it's your responsibility to pay attention and look out for pedestrians. It doesn't matter whether they're being responsible or using the crossover correctly. They're on foot. You're in a car. The onus is on you. So put down the phone, put up your eyes and pay attention. If you want to live dangerously, take up cliff diving – but let's keep the risks off the road.
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter