By Jeremy Rochow
Published: Wednesday, August 11, 2021
As car drivers, we can sometimes focus a bit too much on our own little cabin and forget we’re sharing the road with other people operating a variety of vehicles or experiencing the environment in a different way.
Have you ever beeped your horn at a pedestrian walking across the road in your path or quickly darted around a bus indicating it’s pulling out from a stop?
While you might not have committed these specific faux pas, you’ve probably, at one point or another, forgotten to consider how others use the road.
There’s nothing like a healthy dose of perspective to help shape the way we behave on the road, so 4 people have shared what it’s like to be in their shoes.
Michael Zannis | Pedestrian
Imagine not being able to see anything as you walk down the street, relying solely on your hearing and the white cane in your hand to help avoid objects. That’s the reality for Michael Zannis who’s been living without any vision since he was 6.
He hasn’t let that stop him though. Michael has represented Australia in cricket, touring both England and the Indian subcontinent.
How do you negotiate walking along the street without any vision?
I use a long white cane in front of me as I walk along the street. I hope it hits things before I do, but clear paths are beneficial for me.
Obstructions on footpaths are my main problem, whether it’s cars parked in driveways [across the footpath] that shouldn’t be, or electric scooters chucked on the ground.
How do you navigate crossing the road?
Listening to traffic is important, as well as using the beepers at lights, which are fantastic. If they’re not there, listening for traffic is vital.
Wind and rain can make it tricky because they dampen the sounds cars and trucks make.
What can other road users do to help you when you’re walking?
I’d certainly appreciate it if other pedestrians would move out of the way – that would be fantastic. I’ve had people texting on their phone walk straight into me.
If they could stop texting, that would be great. If you’re not sure what to do, my tip would be just let me know where you are. All you have to say is “hey, I’m here”. Then I’ll know where you are, and I’ll miss you.
What should motorists consider?
Don’t park on the footpath or in driveways, blocking the footpath. Motorists should also be aware of other road users and keep an eye out for all pedestrians. Don’t try to run lights either.
That’s not great, because I can’t see cars coming.
Brett Coombs | Bus driver, Torrens Transit
Brett Coombs has been driving for Torrens Transit, which is an Adelaide Metro service provider, for about 17 years.
He’s had an interest in buses and public transport since he was young, and has always wanted to be a driver.
Brett’s concerned with the behaviour of motorists when they’re in the vicinity of buses.
What’s the biggest challenge when driving a bus on the road?
I’d have to say it would be dealing with increasing amounts of traffic, especially while keeping to the timetable. Motorists also do the most unexpected things.
Can you share an example?
I don’t think (motorists) quite understand that a heavy vehicle braking is nowhere as near as fast as braking in a car. If somebody suddenly stops or cuts in front of us, we have to slam the brakes on, and you’ve got people on board that you can hurt.
Do you experience many issues when indicating to pull out from a bus stop?
No one wants to give way to the bus when we’re pulling out from a stop.
Years ago, the sign [on the back of the bus] said ‘please give way’, but that changed to ‘give way’ and it’s a law, not a request. People don’t understand that if we indicate for 5 seconds, they must give way.
Obviously, we still must avoid an accident, but if people don’t let us in, then we could be there for ages.
If you had one safety message for all motorists, what would it be?
Have some patience with us. Just because it’s a big bus, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be slow.
We do the speed limit; we take longer to stop, and we have passengers on board who we’re trying to keep safe.
Don’t just duck in front of us and hit the brakes because it makes it dangerous for everyone.
Sharon Middleton | Truck driver and President of the SA Road Transport Association
Sharon Middleton has been in the freight industry for 38 years and is the co-owner of Whiteline Transport.
She regularly drives B-double and B-triples (road trains) interstate, is President of the SA Road Transport Association and Director of the Australian Trucking Association.
Sharon also received an Order of Australia medal in 2019 for her services to the road transport industry.
What’s one of the biggest challenges for somebody driving a B-double or triple?
Every trip is different; every load you transport is different; the weather changes and road conditions vary.
The traffic on the road and interaction with other vehicles can change. You can train and be prepared for every trip, but there are lots of factors that can make it different from the trip you went on last week.
What should road users consider when interacting with heavy vehicles on the road?
It would be good for people towing caravans to have extra mirrors so they can see. I see so many people towing caravans who don’t have the safety gear on their cars, so they can’t see when people are coming up behind them.
Also, even if you’re a person who doesn’t want to listen to the CB radio, when you have a truck behind or approaching you, it’s always good to tune into the truck channel (channel 40 on a UHF radio) so you can communicate.
Is there anything else drivers should consider?
Last-minute braking can be a problem too. Don’t decide last-minute (to brake) and look in your mirror, because trucks take a lot longer to stop.
We also find that we go to overtake vehicles and they speed up. There are no winners when that happens.
We really need to make a quick decision, whether we continue the manoeuvre or deem it unsafe and back off.
Do impatient drivers overtaking trucks in dangerous situations make you anxious?
They can, because if you see someone overtaking you in an unsafe situation, whether it’s on a bend or across double white lines, it means that if their manoeuvre is unsuccessful, it’s going to impact other road users.
It creates dangerous situations. If you’re travelling over to the eastern states, there are usually plenty of overtaking lanes, so you should utilise those.
Dr Graham Lovell | Cyclist
Dr Graham Lovell is both a keen cyclist, with more than 50 years’ experience on bikes, and a GP who’s seen his fair share of bicycle-related injuries.
The ex-president of Southern Veterans Cycling Club has cycled competitively and completed bike tours in Australia and Europe.
What’s the most daunting part of cycling on the road?
The lack of cycling lanes is the biggest problem for me. However, it’s good to see that down in my area in the Southern Vales, they’re currently building a very extensive network of bike trails.
What precautions do you take to stay safe on the road?
As a doctor, I’ve unfortunately tended to several cyclists who’ve been hit (by cars) – I was run over myself while riding to work as an intern aged 23.
I’ve always been a forerunner of bright clothing and bike lights. Those are very important features, which are sadly often forgotten. Inappropriate, black clothing is a trending stupidity that we see constantly on the road.
Can you tell us about when you were hit by a car?
I was commuting to work, and I was in the turn-through section of a median strip on Daws Rd. I was between the two concrete barriers, so I wasn’t in the way of the car, but I was hit from behind.
Were you injured?
Well, ironically, I’d gone home because I’d forgotten my helmet, and luckily, I was wearing it because all I had were a few bruises and a mangled bike.
I was under the car, staring up at the radiator.
What should motorists consider when they meet a cyclist on the road?
I’m happy with the majority of road users to be honest. I think if we (cyclists) are provided safe alternative routes and bike lanes, this removes the angst for passing cars and other vehicles on major roads.
I also think there needs to be more policing of the bike lanes in townships. If cars are parked in bike lanes, what’s the point of having them?