Presenteeism: another form of Distracted Driving

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by David Herman

I have written a couple times, at least, about being a pedestrian, biker (bicycle rider) in and around Kemptville, but I am sure these conditions apply wherever drivers and pedestrians or bikers co-exist. In Kemptville this past week, I have encountered drivers that do not seem to notice, or do not understand how to treat, a crossover. I have stood off the curb in the crossover, looking at the traffic approaching, hoping (not expecting) the drivers to yield the right of way to me as a pedestrian, only to have them drive right on by as though I was not there. Sometimes, when a vehicle is far enough away, I venture out; but sometimes I have to run because, although I am legally in a crosswalk and as such have the right of way, they show no signs of slowing or yielding. To be fair, I must say that there are some drivers who do stop and yield to the pedestrian, but they do not seem to be in the majority.

As of January 1, 2016, the law in Ontario indicates drivers and cyclists must now stop and yield the whole crossover until the person is completely off the roadway. This rule also applies at school crossings where there is a crossing guard holding a Stop sign. Under this law, drivers and cyclists can be fined from $150 to $500, and get three demerit points for offences at pedestrian crossings and school crossings.

What is the difference between a crosswalk and a crossover, you might ask? Pedestrian crossovers are identified by specific signs, pavement markings, overhead lights and push buttons. A crosswalk is usually found at intersections with traffic signals, pedestrian signals, or stop signs. If I can take a minute to say that all of our traffic signals with pedestrian signals have these signals synchronised with the appropriate green traffic signal, as far as I have found thus far, except the lights at the intersection of 43 and 44. These signals are under County, not municipal, jurisdiction.

Being used to the pedestrian signal changing with the appropriate Green traffic signal, I stood through two cycles of the lights waiting for the change; but it only changes when the button is pushed. This can be a problem in the colder seasons when some buttons freeze up. The rationale for this I have yet to learn, but I have been given a number to call to speak with County officials, and I will call them.

Last week, I attended a symposium in Smiths Falls and one of the presenters used a term, ”presenteeism”, which I have generally heard used to describe people who were staying at work but not functioning at maximum capacity due to illness, injury, or another condition, or perhaps coming to work when they are ill and should be in bed. She used this to describe people who were physically present, but their mind and thoughts were somewhere else. This turned on a light in my head, as it seems to describe some people driving today. Driving has become second nature to most of them and some, because of their busy lives, let their mind wander away from the act of driving to what is for supper tonight, the argument with the kids before they left for school, or any number of things other than where it should be, and that is concentrating on where their vehicle is in relation to the world around it.

This is another form of distracted driving not involving a device, which is just as bad. I wish I could say that all we have to do to fix this situation is…but I cannot. Our lives have become too busy, either by work or family dynamics, or by choice, where people cannot seem to turn their phone off while doing something as complicated as driving a car. It is, with practice, a fairly simple task, until you have to react quickly to some change in your situation. Soon, our children will be out of school and they will be out and about, and they do not always use the proper crossings. But it is incumbent on all drivers to pay attention to their task at hand and protect them, and while you are at it, keep an eye peeled for the old folks, who may not see as sharply or hear as keenly and cannot move so quickly, but depend on you to protect them as well.

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