Stopping Traffic

Hello once again.

Knowing how to cross roads safely is vitally important for everyone, from the young to the old, in all walks of life.  Naturally it is something that is also focused on during guide dog training, as well as basic mobility and Cain training.

As Guide Dog owners we are given high visibility aids to help us be more visible to road users.  This includes high visibility on the guide dog harness. As well as various high visibility items for us as Guide Dog owners, including Sam Brown belts, luminescent waste-coats and arm bands.  We are encouraged, for our own safety and that of our dogs, to where one of these high visibility items at all times.

Our training includes areas such as finding a safe place to cross, knowing when to cross, when not to cross, and making sure that our dogs always stop and wait at curbs until we tell them to move forward. In addition both we and our dogs are encouraged to think of moving into the road to get around an obstacle, such as a car or other vehicle blocking the pavement, as a last resort.

Something else which we are trained to deal with is the road user who stops to let us cross the road…  Now, on the face of it this may seem like a kind act for which we should be grateful. However, in truth, it is a potentially dangerous situation, for a number of reasons. For instance, although the person immediately in front of us may have stopped there is no guarantee that the driver behind them will stop. They may just move around and continue their journey. In addition the sound of the stopped vehicle could block out sounds of approaching traffic from the same side of the road, or the other. With the increasing popularity of electric vehicles which are extremely, perhaps even dangerously quiet this risk is increased.

So although road users may think they are helping us by coming to a stop when they see us waiting to cross, they are in fact doing the exact opposite.  As a result we have to try and communicate this to them.  I typically do this with a movement of my head encouraging them to keep going in the direction they are moving in, and if necessary just mouthing the words “go on”.

On a recent walk Commando and I encountered this situation once again.  Much to my surprise, this time it was with not one but two vehicles.  We were waiting to cross a road, on some tactile paving, when I heard a bus approaching and beginning to slow.  This isn’t unusual at this crossing area as vehicles often slow down around this part of the road.  But a few seconds later I realized that the bus had come to a stop.  At about the same time I also heard a vehicle slowing to a stop on the other side of the road as well!  This was the first time I had encountered a situation where we were quite literally causing a hold up.  I gestured to the bus, as I heard the second vehicle slowing, but the bus remained where it was.  Since the traffic passes fairly close together at this point in the road I became concerned that if both vehicles started moving at the same time then there may be a risk of collision.  I again gestured to the bus to move on, as it was the closest to me but it remained stationary.  Due to the fact that it had stopped so close to me there’s no way Commando would have crossed the road at that point even if I had asked him to, as he would have considered the traffic too close, and since we carry out near traffic reinforcement on a regular basis, I’m quite certain he would have stayed exactly where he was.

Fortunately a member of the public was nearby, and realizing what was going on she was able to signal to the traffic and get them moving in the proper order to avoid any collision risks.  Once the traffic was moving again Commando and I were able to wait for a suitable crossing window and safely cross the road.

So, to any road users who read this post, I say.  Although you may think you are helping us by coming to a stop in front of us so we can cross the road, the best thing you can do is to continue on your journey as normal and trust that we can find our way across the road safely with our dog or cane, without the need to stop traffic.

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