The Wave Of Death: When Polite Can Get You Killed

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pedestrian accidents & ICBC

It is kind of you to wave me through the intersection or through a roundabout or at the crosswalk, but if the wave is contradictory or unpredictable to anyone else on the road, that polite gesture could get me or someone else killed.

In the world of personal injury lawyers they call that the “wave of death”. That one polite gesture could change someone’s life forever. A prime example is the woman jaywalking across the street. The big truck in the curb lane slows down, stops and waves her across. The pedestrian steps out in front of the truck into the next lane, and she gets hit by a car. Why? Because the action was unexpected.

The driver of the truck assumes the pedestrian will look to her left as she enters the second lane. The pedestrian assumes the truck driver is watching her back and has checked the second lane and of course the poor driver of the second car is not expecting a jay-walker. No one wins in this situation. Who is to blame for the accident? Each of the three participants have a role to play. But will ICBC find the jaywalker responsible for breaking the law? How will liability be allocated?

You can be a polite driver by:

  • Allowing cars to merge in an orderly fashion with each lane taking a turn (think like a zipper).
  • Slow down when approaching crosswalks of any type
  • When in doubt, yield to the right of way
  • Always use your signal lights
  • Pay attention to drivers who need to make lane changes and give leeway
  • Turn in your required lane (not the second or third lane)
  • Don’t hold up traffic because you made a mistake. Go around the block and reposition yourself

Please be polite. There are many safe ways to do this, but do not give another driver, cyclist, or a pedestrian the wave of death.

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