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DANGER: ELDERLY OFF-ROAD DRIVERS

In my last post, talking pedestrians and cyclists, I made reference to “strange possibilities” and to take evasive action to avoid in any circumstance.

We have a new and growing breed of driver out there that may be considered one of those “strange possibilities”. They are the elderly, off-road mobility scooter drivers and sad to say that I’m one of them.

My first experience dealing with one of these vehicles did not involve me as a driver. I got a call one afternoon about a driver who had been struck by a mobility scooter at a city intersection. Our driver was being charged and wanted me at the scene.

Here is what I discovered when I got there. Indeed, the scooter ran into our vehicle just ahead of the driver’s side rear wheel. The elderly gentleman was quite shaken but, was vocally insistent that the “Walk Sign” was green.

The scenario was as follows: Our driver was traveling in the second Nick-2015from left lane on a multi-lane, one-way street approaching a traffic-light controlled intersection at a two-way street. Seeing a delay ahead, he decided to make a left turn at the corner and go to the next block before resuming that direction on another parallel street. Changing lanes to the far left and seeing nobody at the crosswalk, he executed a left turn at the intersection. Part way through the crosswalk in the far lane, his vehicle was struck on the left side by something. Already going slowly, he stopped immediately. City sidewalks formed that corner from both streets. Traffic lights were green at the time of the incident.

The elderly scooter driver had been traveling on the sidewalk in the same direction and stated that, as the “walk sign” was green, he did not look, slow down, or stop when he reached the intersection. He drove right out, crossed the first lane and ran into the side of our vehicle making the left turn. Legally, he was right but, he very well could have been “dead right”.

One little detail came into play that one might not be expecting. The city, being very beauty conscious, had installed a large concrete block, flower box just prior to the corner between the sidewalk and the street. It was just high enough that it obscured our driver’s vision from ever seeing the seated man on the scooter. Pretty flowers of many colours were growing from the four-foot long, three-foot-high box.

No orange flag projected up indicating a scooter and therefore it was completely obscured from the street. The scooter did not have daytime running lights and the driver was in dark clothing with nothing to make him stick out. He was also driving at full-out, maximum speed of around four and a half miles per hour.

To make a long story short, we picked up the pieces of his scooter and delivered them to the mobility scooter shop. We rented a replacement for the old gent to use and when they told me that his scooter could not be repaired, we ordered a new machine for him.

On the day that the new scooter arrived, our mechanic and I picked up the old gent with the rental unit and delivered them to the retail shop. With a big smile on his face, he hopped on board the new machine and raced to the corner. Without so much as a look in any direction, let alone a stop, he made a ninety-degree turn and shot across the intersection and was out of sight within seconds. Oh, by the way, our mechanic fixed the original scooter and we donated it to a chap who had just lost his leg.

I spend a lot of time on my scooter these days. I run with lights on both, front and back. An orange flag sticks up about seven feet in the air and I wear either a bright yellow reflective jacket or construction shirt with reflective tape. Most of the time, I run at full-out speed and stop or slow down dramatically at street corners. Most of the time I’m on the sidewalks even though they are very bumpy or drive on the left facing traffic where there are none.

Be very aware that there are more senior citizens
out there than anybody else these days and it is
going to get worse. They don’t think about driving
these machines and most have forgotten that their
mother taught them to look both ways before
crossing a street. Many of them are dangerous to
themselves and a hazard to you, the driver.
Old Uncle Nicky – Headlights on, orange flag and bright yellow jacket.Be very careful around them.

Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.
THINK SAFETY ……… EVERYWHERE ……….. ALL THE TIME

About the Author

Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.

As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.

Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council

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