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Module 8

Sharing the Road

It’s not unheard of for car drivers to feel a little possessive of the road and not want to share. After all, passenger cars and other automobiles dominated roads for years after the horse-and-buggy combo died out. But times have changed and share we must. As a driver, you will be expected to share the roadway with a variety of different types of vehicles both much larger and much smaller than your own vehicle.

In addition to large discrepancies in size, you will also find that many of these vehicles move at different rates of speed with some driving much slower than you and others driving much faster. Some vehicles will be loud motorized types that you can hear coming from far away while others will operate almost silently, as in the case of bicycles. And…sharing the road isn’t just about other vehicles, as pedestrians also have certain rights to our roadways

In this module, we will discuss the different types of vehicles (as well as pedestrians) that you will encounter on the roadway. Sharing the roadway with these vehicles and pedestrians often takes extra care and caution than simply traveling alongside typical passenger vehicles.

Sharing the Road Starts with Common Courtesy

It’s nice to be courteous and polite. But we don’t practice courtesy on the roads because it’s nice. We do it because courteous behaviors and attitudes promote safe behaviors and attitudes.  It’s impossible for existing traffic laws and rules of the road to address every possible driving situation. Courtesy (such as yielding, and giving – not taking – the right-of-way) picks up where laws leave off. If you remember to be courteous, you can help avoid accidents and keep traffic moving in an orderly fashion.

The Golden Rule of driving is to treat other drivers the way you want to be treated. You should obey traffic laws, drive responsibly, and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

You Do Not Own the Road

No one person has any more right to the roadway than the next. This not only applies to passenger vehicles, it also applies to commercial vehicles, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. While you may become impatient with a slow-moving commercial vehicle in front of you, the fact is, they have just as much right to be on the road as you do.

Sharing the road is a fairly simple concept.  All of the rules and laws that we have covered so far are really about acknowledging the fact that ours is not the only vehicle on the road. We acknowledge our fellow road-users each time we scan the road, signal, give space, take care in changing lanes, and brake. This is all about being aware of others and making them aware of us. And it’s how and why we give other drivers, motorcyclists, bicycles, pedestrians, trucks, slow-moving vehicles and emergency units the space they need.

Sharing the road begins before you get in the car. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get where you are going, so you will not feel rushed and cut corners with other drivers.  Even if you do feel stressed, you should not take it out on others.  Be kind and courteous.

Safe and responsible drivers will treat you with courtesy, but not all drivers fall into this category.  Sometimes you will encounter other drivers who are aggressive, rude or even demonstrating road rage.  Always try to avoid conflict.  Try to pull back or pull over to let aggressive drivers pass.  Aggression on the road is very dangerous and can result in more than an accident, though that of course is terrible enough.  If you can, take down the aggressive driver’s license plate number, pull over and call the Highway Patrol.

It’s important to remember that practicing patience is what keeps you safe and in control of your car. Everyone understands how frustrating and angering it can be to be mistreated by other drivers, but adrenaline and driving do not mix well! Pull over and give yourself a chance to calm down if someone sets you off and you find yourself feeling over-stressed or anxious.

Courtesy promotes safety by avoiding temper flare-ups. More importantly, it helps everyone to better anticipate what other drivers may do (because everyone is following the same rules of the road).   Just so we are clear, the following behaviors are not courteous and should not be practiced when you are behind the wheel:

  • Tailgating: You will not get where you want to go any faster by riding the bumper of the person ahead of you. It will not make them go faster (in fact, they might be foolishly tempted to hit their brakes just to “teach you a lesson” – very shortsighted!). In fact, tailgating is far more likely to slow everyone down because it could easily lead to a serious crash.  Always obey the standard rules for proper following distance, regardless of whether you are in a hurry or the person in front of you is going too slowly.  Be courteous and leave space for them – this also helps you to react to a sudden hazard. In most cases, if you hit the car ahead of you, it’s considered your fault.
  • Driving too slowly: You shouldn’t feel pressured to drive at the maximum speed limit if the road conditions don’t support it. But driving too slowly can cause problems, too. Vehicles moving slower than the flow of traffic can become dangerous obstacles when other, fast-moving drivers come up behind them without realizing how slow they are traveling.
  • Cutting another vehicle off: Darting out in front of another car, or cutting them off— and thus preventing them from making a turn or lane change that they are signaling to make— is dangerous. And rude. Wait for a gap in traffic to make your lane change, and leave space for others to come into your lane if they need to. It’s what you’d want other drivers to do for you.
  • Not turning off your high beams: if you’ve ever had someone else’s high beams flash in your eyes, you know how blinding – and dangerous – this can be. If you need to use your high beams, such as on a rural highway, be sure to dim them back to regular headlights when you see another car coming from the opposite direction or approaching the main road from a side street. You’ll notice these drivers cutting their high beams for you as well.
  • Not letting other cars merge: Too many drivers will choose a lane – such as the right-hand lane on a highway—and stay there, sometimes refusing to change their speed to allow another vehicle to merge onto the road. Refusing to allow other cars into traffic is not only impolite, it can cause a severe accident. If someone is trying to get onto the freeway, let them- it’s your duty as a fellow road user. Change lanes to give them space, or slow down or speed up slightly to create a gap for them to enter.
  • Not using your turn signals: Other drivers can’t read your mind. Yet to drive safely, they need to be able to anticipate your actions so they can respond appropriately. Your turn signals are how you tell other drivers what your plans are. Don’t be the cause of an accident by refusing to signal your turn or lane change.
  • Playing loud music: Your taste in music is unique to you. Chances are, the drivers around you don’t share that taste. When you play your music really loud, you are basically holding anyone captive who had the bad luck of stopping at the same red light as you. This is not what we mean when we say share the road. More importantly, however, playing your music very loud is a serious safety risk. Remember, you are a new driver and it’s your responsibility to limit distractions. Music distracts you from the road and makes it much harder hear any signals from outside of the car, such as sirens, horns and warning signals.

How to Share the Road

Cars are not the only objects on the road. Nevada law requires you to learn to safely share the road with large vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, pedestrians, bicyclists, slow-moving vehicles, and even occasional horseback riders. It’s not always easy for some of these fellow road users to get around, and they need your help in ensuring their safety. You should know how to safely deal with these special road users (who have as much right to the road as you do) and understand the rules that apply to other highway users.

Sharing the Road with Commercial Vehicles

In Nevada, a “commercial vehicle” is defined as every vehicle designed, maintained or used primarily for the transportation of property in furtherance of commercial enterprise.

While some drivers of ordinary passenger vehicles feel that large trucks are a nuisance because of their relative size and usually slower operating speeds, you should keep in mind that these large trucks are an essential part of our national economy, as they help transport nearly everything we eat, wear and use in our daily lives.

The most common commercial vehicles that you will encounter on Nevada roadways are large (heavy) trucks and tractor-trailers. Large trucks and tractor-trailers can make some drivers – especially those driving compact, lightweight cars – a bit nervous, to say the least. There’s no need for that, however, once you understand how to share the road with them. Sharing the road with larger vehicles can be safe if a motorist knows the limitations of these vehicles regarding visibility, required stopping distance and maneuverability.

There’s no denying that commercial vehicles are much larger and much heavier than your passenger vehicle. As such, when a traffic collision occurs between a passenger vehicle and a commercial vehicle, the passenger vehicle will almost always be the vehicle that sustains the most damage.

Because of the size and weight of the commercial vehicle, the damage to passenger vehicles in such an accident is usually quite significant.   In 2012, there were 3,514 people who died in crashes involving large trucks. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, 96 percent of the deaths were occupants of the passenger vehicles.

Further, according to a 2013 report by the American Trucking Association, crashes involving commercial vehicles are twice as likely to result in fatality than crashes involving only passenger vehicles.  The report concluded that “the majority of fatal and serious injury crashes involving a truck also involve at least one car. The preponderance of evidence suggests that car drivers are principally at fault in about three-quarters (70-75%) of fatal car-truck crashes.”

While you may think that the American Trucking Association is biased in their report, it was actually based on a large study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Institute, which conducted an exhaustive study looking at fault distribution in 8,309 fatal traffic accidents between passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Their finding was that drivers of passenger vehicles were the “critical reason” for the accident 71% of the time, while the commercial vehicle drivers were the “critical reason” for the accident only 16% of the time. The study showed that in only 10% of the crashes, the passenger vehicle and the commercial vehicle were both the “critical reason” for the fatal accident.

Here’s a key point to remember: most deadly crashes between large trucks and cars involve one or more unsafe driving behaviors by the passenger car driver. That’s you. These unsafe driving behaviors include:
  • Vehicle related problems
  • Driver unfamiliar with the roadway
  • Driver fatigue
  • Tire problems
  • Aggressive driving
  • Driver illness
  • Illegal drug use
  • Alcohol use

If it’s on the list above, don’t do it!

Unlike other vehicles, commercial vehicles present unique issues when operating on the road. It is important that you understand these unique circumstances so that you can prepare for them and keep yourself safe.

Blind Spots and the “No Zone”

Passenger vehicle drivers incorrectly assume that a truck driver can see the road better because he or she is higher off the road. While truck drivers do have a better forward view and bigger mirrors, they still have large “blind spots” — areas of the road adjacent to and behind the truck that the truck driver simply cannot see in his mirrors.  Your vehicle can get lost in those blind spots.

If you stay in those blind spots, you block the truck driver’s ability to take evasive action to avoid a dangerous situation—because he is unable to see that a dangerous situation has developed.

Here’s how you can help both the truck driver and yourself by staying out of his blind spot:  know where a truck’s blind spots are.  Generally speaking, the way to tell you’re in a truck’s blind spot is:  When you’re alongside a truck, If you look up in the truck’s side mirror and you cannot see the truck driver in his or her side mirror, he or she cannot see you. These blind spots are often called the “NO ZONE.”

The “No Zone” principle

Avoid the area around trucks where vehicles disappear into blind spots. Do not move so close to a truck that the truck driver’s ability to stop or maneuver effectively is restricted. The potential for a collision is increased when a motorist is riding in the no-zone. If the driver of a large truck or bus cannot see another driver’s vehicle in the rearview or side-view mirrors, the vehicle is in a no-zone, or blind spot.

Rear no-zone

Stay far behind a truck that is preparing to back up or is backing up, and never pass close behind a truck that is preparing to back up or is in the process of backing up. Because of their width, the truck’s trailers completely hide objects that suddenly come between them and a loading area. The area behind the truck is a no-zone (blind spot), not only for the truck driver but for other motorists as well.

A motorist should increase following distance behind a truck or other large vehicle so its driver will be able to spot a motorist’s vehicle in the rearview mirrors. Never tailgate or remain sandwiched between trucks. A motorist should maintain a sizable space cushion between his/her vehicle and larger vehicles.

Leave plenty of space when stopping at a light or stop sign behind a truck or bus, especially when facing uphill. The larger vehicle may roll backward slightly when starting. Give more road space to a truck driver who is making a wide turn. Because trucks are larger than other vehicles, their drivers may have to slow, back up or swing wide to negotiate a turn. They cannot see smaller vehicles directly behind or beside them. For example, a truck driver may have to swing wide to the left to make a right turn.

Front “No Zone”

Maintain a consistent speed when passing. Do not pull in front of a truck when passing until the whole front of the truck can be seen in the rearview mirror. Always signal before changing lanes. Never pass a truck on the right.

Side “No Zone”

Drive away from the long blind spots on the sides of trucks. If the truck driver must quickly change lanes or make an emergency maneuver, a vehicle in the blind spot area will be in the way. Do not linger alongside a truck when passing.

Head-on “No Zone”

A driver should bear right when a large vehicle is traveling toward his/her vehicle from the opposite direction. This reduces wind turbulence between the motorist and the larger vehicle, and possibly prevents a sideswipe.


Braking

Large trucks take longer to stop than vehicles traveling at the same speed. The average passenger vehicle traveling at 55 mph can stop within 400 feet after pressing the brake pedal. However, a large truck traveling at the same speed can take almost 800 feet to stop! Do not move in front of a large truck and suddenly slow down or stop. The trucker will not be able to stop quickly enough to avoid crashing into you. In addition, during bad weather, a truck can take as much as 25 percent longer to stop.

Turning

When a vehicle makes a turn, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels. This is known as “rear wheel cheat.” The longer the vehicle, the greater the difference in the turning path. This is why truck drivers must often swing wide to complete a right turn. When you follow a large truck, look at its turn signals before you start to pass. If the truck appears to be turning left, check the turn signals again; the driver may actually be turning right but first swinging wide.

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To avoid a collision, watch for trucks making right turns from the left lane. If you are in the right lane next to a truck that is turning right, be sure to keep an open space for them to be able to make their turn without striking your vehicle.

Maneuverability

Trucks are not as maneuverable as passenger vehicles. Large trucks have longer stopping and starting distances. They take more space for turns and they weigh more. When no signs are posted, these vehicles must be driven in the right hand traffic lane or as close as possible to the right edge of the roadway. On a divided highway with four (4) or more traffic lanes in one direction, these vehicles may also be driven in the lane just to the left of the right hand lane.

Avoid these mistakes when driving around large trucks:

  • Cutting off a truck in traffic or on the highway to reach an exit or turn. Cutting into the open space in front of a truck is dangerous. Trying to beat a truck through a single-lane construction zone, for example, removes the truck driver’s cushion of safety and places you and others in danger. Slow down and take your turn entering the construction zone. Do not speed up to pass a truck, so you can exit the roadway. Take a moment to slow down and exit behind a truck—it will only take you a few extra seconds.
  • Lingering alongside a truck when passing. Always pass a large truck on the left side, and after you pass the truck, move ahead of it. Do not linger. Otherwise, you make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the trucker to take evasive action if an obstacle appears in the road ahead.
  • Following too closely or tailgating. When you follow so closely behind a truck that you cannot see the truck driver’s side view mirrors, the trucker cannot see you and has no way of knowing you are there. Tailgating a truck, or any vehicle, is dangerous because you take away your own cushion of safety if the vehicle in front of you stops quickly.
  • Underestimating the size and speed of an approaching tractor-trailer. A large tractor-trailer often appears to be traveling at a slower speed because of its large size. Many collisions involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck occur at intersections, when the passenger vehicle driver did not realize how close the truck was or how fast it was traveling.

Teens and Trucks 11 minutes

Sharing the Road with Buses

When sharing the road with buses, you should follow the same rules as you do with commercial vehicles. The fact is, buses are often as large and as long as commercial vehicles, and just as heavy. Because of their size, buses have the same blind spots as large trucks and therefore the “no zone” principles should be applied.

Of particular importance in Nevada are school buses. Clark County, Nevada boasts one of the largest school districts in the U.S, which means that if you’re driving anywhere in Clark County, your chance of finding yourself frequently driving in the vicinity of a school bus is much greater than if you were driving in other parts of Nevada or in other states.  That’s why it is very important to understand your duties and obligations when sharing the roadway with these unique vehicles.

In general, whether you observe a school bus traveling with you in the same direction or coming towards you, it is important to pay close attention to what the bus is doing and what is going on around it. Unlike commercial vehicles, the cargo on school buses is children, so extra caution should always be taken.

When a bus is in the area, there is a good chance that children are as well. This means you should be diligently looking for children in the street and adjacent sidewalks. When a school bus is slowing down or stopping, it may be doing so in order to let children off the bus or to pick them up. With smaller children who are on the sidewalk waiting for the bus, it is not unusual for them to see the bus, and to suddenly dart into the street in an effort to reach it. Also, children may exit the bus and do the same thing, darting into the street because they want to cross it, without so much as looking to see if it’s clear.

You already know from our discussion in a previous module that drivers are required to stop for school buses when students are boarding and departing and when the bus is displaying its flashing red lights. On divided highways with a median or other physical barrier, traffic moving in the opposite direction does not have to stop. On all other roads, traffic in both directions must stop.

Hopefully, you will also recall that passing a school bus that displays flashing red lights and a stop sign is a serious traffic offense that can result in hefty fines. Keep in mind that even if a police officer is not present, school bus drivers are charged with taking your license plate and reporting it to authorities.

Here is some more vital information to know, and rules to follow when you find yourself sharing the road with school buses:
  1. School buses are required to stop at all railroad crossings, whether or not there is any indication that a train is approaching.  So if you’re traveling behind a school bus, you must be prepared to stop when approaching a railroad crossing.
  2. School buses travel at lower speeds than the speed allowed for other vehicles, and also have a maximum speed that they are allowed to travel, regardless of the speed limit.
  3. Buses have their own, built-in traffic control devices (flashing red lights and retractable stop signs). Treat these signals the same as road signs and other traffic signals – it’s the law!

Sharing the Road with Motorcycles

Motorcycles look really cool when you admire them—up close—in a parking spot. You may find them looking a little less cool, however, when you discover one that you never saw coming suddenly in your blind spot. Motorcycles travel as fast as cars and must obey the same traffic laws. But motorcyclists also share some of the same problems faced by pedestrians and bicyclists: lower visibility, less stability, and less protection. You and the motorcyclist must work together to ensure their safety.

Never follow motorcycles too closely. A motorist should be aware of slippery, sloped or uneven surfaces and grooves and gratings in the roadway, which present potential hazards for motorcycle riders. Objects on the roadway also present a challenge. Motorcyclists must be ready to react to these situations differently than motorists driving passenger vehicles. This is why it is important to leave plenty of space between an automobile and a motorcycle.

When you are being passed by a motorcycle, you should maintain your speed and position. Allow plenty of room for the motorcycle to complete the pass and resume proper lane position.

A driver’s failure to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the most common cause of motorcycle collisions.  In a crash between a car and a motorcycle, the person who was driving the car will often say, “I just didn’t see him,” or “He came out of nowhere.” Here are some additional points on the topic to keep in mind:

To help other drivers see them, motorcyclists are required to keep their headlights and taillights on at all times. To protect themselves, motorcyclists are required to wear approved helmets and goggles or a face shield. Because of the motorcycle’s relatively smaller size, it can be harder to judge how far away a motorcycle is or how fast it is approaching, compared to a regular passenger car or other vehicle. Many motorcycle accidents that involve other vehicles happen when the other driver misjudges speed or distance – or fails to see the motorcycle – and stops or turns in front of the motorcyclist.

Even though it isn’t as wide as a regular car, a motorcycle has the right to use the full lane. You may see an experienced motorcyclist changing positions within a lane to get a clearer view of traffic, avoid hazards and be more visible to drivers. Keep this in mind: you may not pass or drive alongside a motorcycle in the same lane, and likewise, a motorcyclist may not share a lane with you.

Take care when passing a motorcyclist. Give them space. Like bicycles, motorcycles can be affected by the air pressure of passing vehicles.

Because motorcyclists must take extra care on some surfaces, you should be aware of what a motorcyclist may do in certain situations. They may need to shift speed or direction to keep themselves safe, which is why you need to give them plenty of room.

  • Motorcyclists may quickly change speed or lane to avoid loose gravel, debris, seams or grooves in the pavement, sewer or access covers, or small animals.
  • When approaching a railroad crossing, motorcyclists may slow down and rise off the seat to cushion the rough crossing and change direction to cross the tracks at a right angle.
  • On bridges with metal grates, they may move to the center of the lane to compensate for the uneven surface.
  • When traveling on a rain-slick road or through a puddle, they may need to drive more slowly and cautiously.
As a car driver, you should follow these rules for sharing the road with motorcycles:
  • Stay well behind a motorcyclist and give yourself sufficient space to stop. You might come out of a collision with a motorcyclist relatively unharmed, but that’s probably not going to be true for the motorcyclist.
  • Be aware of any draft you create as you pass a motorcycle. You’ve probably noticed this same draft on a two-lane rural road when a large truck passes you in the opposite direction. You’ve likely felt the car pull slightly towards the truck. Your car does the same thing to a motorcycle, but a two-wheeled vehicle is less stable and able to withstand the draft.  Do not speed past or pass motorcycles too closely.
  • Be aware of blind spots around your car. Motorcycles can be easily obscured by other traffic.
  • Beware of motorcyclists who are “splitting” lanes, which means driving on the broken white line that separates lanes going in the same direction, in order to get around stopped traffic.

        It’s not considered safe, but some motorcyclists do it anyway.

Sharing the Road with Bicycles

Bicycling has become more popular in recent years (coinciding, perhaps, with increased gas prices) and many cities have responded by adding bike lanes to city and residential streets. But even where there are no bike lanes, bicyclists and operators of non-motorized scooters have the right to share the road and travel in the same direction as motor vehicles. Like pedestrians, these fellow road users must be especially careful of you (and you of them) because they are often difficult to see in traffic. They also have little protection from injury in a crash.

Bicyclists typically ride near the curb or in bicycle lanes if they exist on that road. Bike riders may move into a traffic lane to pass another bicycle or to avoid a hazard. They may also use the left turn lane.

Bicyclists are required to follow the same rules as drivers, such as stopping at red lights and stop signs. Because of this, they have the right to share the road. This means they have the same rights as you, the driver, to use the roadways. However, you, as a motorist, may not travel in a marked bike lane.

Be extra careful when driving near bicycles, and give them plenty of room.  If you want to pass a bicycle you must move into an adjacent lane to the left, if the roadway you’re on has more than one lane and the move can be safely done.

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If you can’t move to another lane, slow down as you pass to the left of the bicycle, leaving at least three feet between your car and the bicycle when you pass.

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Remember, you can be charged with reckless driving if you are at fault in any collision with a bicyclist or a pedestrian, and the penalties can include a driver license suspension.

Up to this point, we’ve been discussing the motorist’s responsibilities toward the bicyclist; however, as they say, “turnabout is fair play,” and the rules of the road and right-of-way apply to bicyclists just as they do for passenger vehicles. In other words, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of passenger vehicles. In Nevada, bicyclists must ride to far right side of the road unless they are making a left turn or if they are able to match the speed of traffic.

Like motor vehicles, bicycles must obey all traffic laws and signals and they must use the appropriate hand signals to indicate turn movements and stopping. Bicyclists must follow rules, too. The following is a summary of their road-sharing responsibilities:

  • Wearing an approved helmet
  • Obeying traffic laws, including use of signals for turns, lane changes and stops
  • Riding in a bike lane, if one is available
  • Riding near the right curb or edge of the road, or on a usable right shoulder of the road when there isn’t a bike lane in order to avoid undue interference with other traffic
  • Using the left side of the lane when preparing for a left turn or moving left to avoid hazards
  • Coming to a full stop before entering a roadway from a driveway, alley or over a curb
  • Never traveling with more than two abreast in a single lane
  • Never riding on a sidewalk if local laws prohibit it
  • Never carrying a passenger unless the bicycle has a passenger seat
  • Keeping at least one hand on the handlebars at all times, and not carrying anything that interferes with proper control of the bicycle

Also, it’s important to realize that, just as we discussed with regard to motorcyclists, air pressure from a quickly passing vehicle can throw bicyclists off balance. It would be devastating if they fell into the road in front of another car because you passed them while going too fast.

Do not rely only on your rearview mirrors; turn your head to look for bicyclists that may be alongside or approaching you.

Be aware that the bicyclist near you or in front of you may react to road hazards, just as a motorcyclist would, and suddenly change speed, direction, or lane position. When driving, be sure to check your blind spots before you parallel park, leave the curb or open a door—bicyclists can tell you stories about thoughtless car occupants who opened a car door right in in the middle of a bike lane and sent them flying!

It is illegal for motor vehicles to drive in a bike lane except for briefly crossing it while making a turn.  Leave the bike lane free for cyclists, even if you don’t see anyone using the lane at the moment.  Remember, visibility is an issue.  If you always leave this lane free, you reduce the risk of a collision with a cyclist you didn’t see.

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Sharing the Road with Pedestrians

Pedestrians use the roads, too. Always be prepared for them to suddenly appear in your path, especially children. Pedestrian safety is the responsibility of both the pedestrian and the driver.

Sadly, Nevada consistently ranks among the 10 worst states for pedestrian fatalities. Nearly 90 percent of pedestrians and drivers involved in fatal crashes in our state are local residents, not visitors.

So, it’s up to us, the people of Nevada, to improve our grades on this shameful report card.  The only way we can lower our pedestrian deaths is for every driver and every pedestrian to understand that pedestrian safety is the responsibility of both pedestrians and drivers.

If you are involved in a pedestrian accident when you are behind the wheel, you may receive substantial fines and/or the suspension of your driver’s license, or even criminal penalties.

Drivers must exercise due care to avoid a collision with a pedestrian at all times.

In a match between a car and a pedestrian, the pedestrian loses – every time. As a driver, you must always yield the right-of-way to people walking, jogging, biking, and crossing a street in the middle of a block. Watch for them darting out from between parked cars.

Keep a sharp eye out for pedestrians every time you enter a street. You still need to be watchful after you have stopped at stop signs and traffic lights, and before you proceed..  Be alert when you pull out of a driveway or alley, and don’t forget to watch the crosswalks that are placed at roundabouts.

Take extra care when you see people with disabilities crossing the road. Be on high-alert for children when you are driving near schools, playgrounds, residential neighborhoods or when school buses are dropping off and picking up.

Just because the traffic light turns green doesn’t automatically mean you can go! There could still be people crossing the street and you must wait for them to finish – even if there isn’t an official crosswalk at that location.

Double-check and then check again for pedestrians when backing up or leaving parking spaces.

If a pedestrian doesn’t appear to see you, give a warning with the horn if necessary to avoid a collision

Drivers must stop or slow down before passing another vehicle stopped in a travel lane until the driver has determined whether that vehicle has stopped for a pedestrian.

This is about safety, not who is right.

Remember, when a car collides with a pedestrian, the pedestrian loses. Don’t ever try to pass a car in the lane next to yours that has stopped, and you can’t see any reason why it has stopped. That car may have stopped to let someone cross the street. But you can’t see that person. One reason you might not be able to see that person as you’re approaching is that the person is a child, and is so short he’s at this very moment crossing in front of the stopped car and you just can’t see him.

You risk hitting that person. That’s why Nevada law requires that you slow down or stop before passing another vehicle in a travel lane until you have determined whether the vehicle has stopped for a pedestrian.

A crosswalk exists at any intersection, whether there are pavement markings or not.

Nevada law requires all drivers to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. You already know this. But what you may not know is that Nevada Law has also declared every intersection to be a crosswalk, regardless of whether or not there are street markings indicating a crosswalk.

Pedestrians often cross the street in the middle of the block, whether or not a crosswalk is present. Some crosswalks have yellow lights that flash when a pedestrian pushes the button. Others may only be painted with the familiar crosswalk markings that show you where you should stop when someone is crossing the street. And again, there may be no markings whatsoever.

Pedestrians’ Responsibilities

Remember, as soon as you exit your vehicle, you become a pedestrian. Here are some major guidelines for pedestrian safety:

Don’t cross a busy street in the middle of the block, unless there happens to be a clearly marked crosswalk there.  Ordinarily, drivers are not expecting to encounter pedestrians in the middle of a busy street and by the time a driver does see you, may not be able to slow down in time to avoid hitting you.   The extra minute or two it will take for you to walk to the corner may keep you from being injured—or worse.  Remember, every intersection is considered to have a crosswalk, whether or not it is painted.

Not all cities or counties provide sidewalks on all of their roads If you are walking on a road that doesn’t have sidewalks on either side, always walk facing oncoming traffic. In most cases this means walking on the left side of the road, unless you are walking on a one-way street.

Runners use the roads, too, and drivers must share the roadways with those who use them for exercise. Runners who are safety conscious always dress in bright or reflective gear and stay off the actual road. If you are a runner, stick to the sidewalk or the shoulder and be sure to run facing oncoming traffic. Don’t run at night, or in dim light (such as at dusk or in fog or rain) when cars are less likely to see you.

Pedestrians need to remember to use marked crossings at all times when crossing the street.  For safety, it is best for pedestrians to use a pedestrian tunnel or bridge rather than to cross directly over a road.

Sometimes the pedestrian isn’t in the right:
  • Walking along and upon highways, hitchhiking, soliciting business or contributions from drivers or occupants of vehicles is prohibited in certain circumstances.
  • Intoxicated pedestrians are prohibited on highways and roadway
  • Pedestrians can often be seen walking on a road when there is a perfectly good sidewalk next to the road;  doing this is in violation of the law that says pedestrians must use sidewalks when they are provided; “it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon a road that runs alongside the sidewalk.”

Pedestrians should obey all signals and never forcibly claim right of way.  They should cross only at intersections and make sure they are seen by drivers before crossing. There’s no guarantee that they will do these smart things, though, so you as the driver need to be aware to help keep them safe.

A driver that is found to be at fault in a vehicle-versus-pedestrian accident can face severe penalties, including the suspension of their driver’s license.

Blind Pedestrians

Nevada law requires you to stop or yield the right-of-way when you see a pedestrian with a white cane or guide dog. Only the blind may carry white canes. Here are some guidelines for what to do when you see a blind pedestrian:

  • Avoid honking the horn or revving the engine; these noises are distracting and cover important audible cues used by the blind.
  • Avoid blocking designated crosswalks (such as when you are planning to turn right but the way isn’t clear yet so you creep forward. Don’t do it). This kind of creeping up makes it especially difficult for a visually impaired or blind person to cross the street. It is also inconvenient for others attempting to cross and it violates the rule of always yielding to pedestrians.
  • Penalties for violating the law giving right of way to blind persons at all times can be imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500, or both.

A Special Note About Children

It wasn’t that long ago that you were a small child who enjoyed walking, running, riding bikes and playing outside. Maybe you can remember what that was like, and how little attention you may have paid to traffic if you were playing near, or even in a street.  Small children usually understand basic safety but they lack the experience and the judgment needed to deal with traffic.

They may believe that drivers are looking out for them and that cars can stop instantly. Because of this, small children do not think much before running into the street to play or perhaps chase a ball that rolls into the roadway— because their focus, priorities and understanding of the consequences are not fully developed. To further complicate this, children are small and are difficult for a driver to see.

You are doubtless familiar with school crossing guards who assist children with crossing the street. In the presence of a school crossing guard, as a driver you must wait for all persons, including the crossing guard, to completely clear the road before you can proceed.

Always be extra cautious when driving through neighborhoods or areas where children are present. Your extra attention and care can save lives!

Sharing the Road with Emergency Vehicles & Tow Trucks

You must yield the right-of-way to any police vehicle, fire engine, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren or flashing lights, regardless of what direction it is coming in. Emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way.

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As soon as you are aware of the emergency vehicle, drive to the right edge of the road and stop.  Remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed. However, never stop in an intersection. If you are already in an intersection when you see the emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then drive to the right edge of the road  and stop as soon as it is safe.

Also, if you’re driving behind an emergency vehicle when the vehicle is operating on the roadway with its lights and sirens activated, you need to remain at least 500 feet behind it.

Many drivers are unaware of Nevada’s Move Over Law This law is in place to protect law enforcement and tow truck operators from being struck by vehicular traffic.

When you approach an emergency vehicle (police car, ambulance, fire truck, etc) or a tow vehicle (tow truck, etc.) that is stopped on the roadway and using its flashing lights, the “move over” law requires you to:
  • decrease your speed to a speed that is “reasonable and proper” and less than the speed limit.
  • proceed with caution
  • be prepared to stop
  • If possible, drive in a lane that is not adjacent to the lane in which the emergency vehicle or tow car is stopped, unless roadway, traffic, weather or other conditions make doing so unsafe or impossible. This means that if you are on a three lane roadway and the emergency vehicle is in the far right lane, you should move to the far left lane – not the middle lane – to completely avoid any chance of striking the officer or tow truck driver.

Move Over Law

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