HERGOTT: Don’t believe in blind luck while driving

Lawyer Paul Hergott’s latest column

“Holy Mary Mother of God”. Though it was about 25 years ago, I remember the moment my mother uttered those words like it was yesterday.

She was getting back into driving. I was along for support.

We were stopped facing a stop sign at 13th Avenue, a busy street in Regina, Saskatchewan. Parked cars along our side of 13th avenue blocked our view.

Her words did nothing to calm my panic when she hit the gas.

My mother was not intending to put us, and others, at risk. She felt it unsafe to pull forward past the stop sign to look for a safe break in traffic because that, in itself, might put us in harm’s way.

She thought it safer to just quickly go for it.

We made it across. Divine intervention? I think blind (literally) luck.

A “Jesus take the wheel” approach to stop signs is (I hope) an exceedingly uncommon one.

But there are much more common scenarios where we think nothing of proceeding completely blind towards potential hazards.

The scenarios I am referring to arise when one lane is flowing while another lane (or lanes) have come to a stop.

This regularly occurs with HOV lanes. Only those with more than one occupant can cruise past while others are gridlocked.

It also occurs when a left turner, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, blocks traffic coming from behind. Traffic will move over to the right to get past. Often even if there isn’t a designated lane.

If the stopped vehicles are low profile sports cars you can see over, no problem.

But stopped traffic often blocks your view of what might be happening ahead of it. And vice versa.

An oncoming left turner, or crossing driver, might be taking the opportunity to make their way across the street in front of the stopped traffic.

They might have been waived across by a lead stopped vehicle.

They might be slowly inching forward, aware of the possibility that a vehicle might be coming up the curb lane. Or they might be oblivious.

It might not be a vehicle. It might be someone walking their dog, pushing a stroller, out for a jog, on a bicycle or roller blading.

You can’t see them. They can’t see you. Each of you is as blind to potential hazards as my mother was when facing that stop sign.

And each of you faces the same choice.

You can choose to reduce your speed and increase your vigilance so that you can react safely. Or you can rely on divine intervention.

Do you, cruising up the empty curb lane, have the absolute right of way? What about the pedestrian at an unmarked crosswalk? What if the crossing vehicle, facing a stop sign, had slowly started across when you were still half a block away? Over the next two columns I will be sharing the results of actual court cases where judges have wrestled with how to assess liability in these scenarios.

But who cares about liability? Let’s care about safety this Season, and for all of 2020. Embrace whatever higher power you might embrace, but please don’t let them take the wheel.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Vees score a 9-1 win against Merritt Centennials

The win is their third in a row in their latest streak.

‘Lift for Wills’ community fundraiser to support Penticton boy fighting cancer

This Sunday, stop by World Gym Penticton for by-donation drop-in classes, a silent auction, more.

Petition to install safety barriers on Hwy 97 garners over 500 supporters

Yesterday a fatal collision on Hwy 97 claimed the life of one individual

Oliver Health Centre celebrates expansion of ER

Minister of Health was in Oliver for the official opening of the improved emergency department

ALERT and Penticton pilot team up to talk about Australian wildfires

Mike Bridson has been fighting the fires in Australia, and returns to help more later this month

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

B.C. town spends $14.14 per resident for snow removal in one month

Costs of snow removal to the Town of Princeton skyrocketed in December.… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Most Read