January is intersection safety month in Alberta, a good time since icy and snowy conditions are often factors in collisions where roads cross paths.
According to Sgt. Phil Penny, commander of the RCMP detachment in Stettler, there are no really “bad” intersections in the community, just “drivers who may be impatient, inexperienced or misjudge the speed of other vehicles while proceeding through intersections.”
The buildup of snow and ice at intersections, especially black ice caused by exhaust and warm tires, is a factor in many collisions at intersections.
“Drive more cautiously, slow down sooner at intersections in anticipation of slippery road conditions, and allow greater space between yourself and vehicles in front of you,” he said.
According to the Alberta Ministry of Transportation, the most frequent driver errors contributing to casualty collisions – collisions where people are hurt – at intersections include the running of stop signs, following other vehicles too closely, failing to yield for a pedestrian and making an improper left turn against oncoming traffic.
“Never assume the other drivers are always going to do the right thing at an intersection, Insp. Steve Daley of Alberta RCMP Traffic Services, said. “You should always check for vehicles approaching the intersection to make sure they are going to stop completely or yield the right of way. Safe driving means that we are constantly watching the road and other drivers to avoid dangerous collisions.
In the five years between 2010-14, 215 people died in Alberta in collisions at intersections. Another 39,791 were injured, the ministry noted.
Slightly less than a third of collision fatalities in Canada occur at intersections, as do 40 per cent of serious collision injuries.
The costs for drivers at intersections can be rather pricey, too: the fine for failing to stop at a stop sign is just shy of $400, and comes with three demerit points. Failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk comes in at $776 and four demerit points.
“Intersections are designed to allow motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to interact with each other safely,” Brian Mason, minister of transportation, said. “Ignoring traffic signs or signals, refusing to yield for pedestrians and following too closely are all significant causes of casualty collisions in our province.”
Police are also asking drivers to remember it is illegal to do a U-turn at intersections controlled by lights in addition to intersections where signs state the driving manoeuvre isn’t allowed.
It is also important to yield to emergency vehicles; failure to do so is a $233 fine and three demerit points.
The onus for intersection safety isn’t only on the drivers of vehicles, which include bicycles. It is also on pedestrians.
RCMP remind pedestrians to be aware of road conditions and factor that in to vehicle stopping time. Further, pedestrians should put away any distracting devices, like cell phones, and remove headphones.