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Giving up the right of way? Generous drivers just cause confusion

Published January 14, 2013
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To keep traffic moving in an orderly and safe manner, our lawmakers devised a set of rules known as the Highway Traffic Act. With a good deal of thought, they came up with a system of who will get the right of way on roads and at intersections to reduce or eliminate confusion by motorists. Any misunderstanding by motorists could lead to collisions or confrontations. Therefore a sense of order laid out in a book of rules (HTA) should put to rest any uncertainty.

When someone does not follow the rules confusion and sometimes collision can result.

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I am all for making driving as easy for all motorists and truckers around me as possible. I will help others merge easily onto the highway by changing lanes or speed and I will not “block” others if they wish to change lanes in front of me. My philosophy is, “the easier it is for other drivers, the safer it is for me.”

However one can be too generous. There are times when I have seen a motorist, out of kindness, give up their right of way to help another driver. Sometimes this works but often it can lead to confusion. Confusion breeds collisions.

The accompanying video above shows the camera car (mine) travelling eastbound on Steeles Ave. E. near Reesor Rd. I wanted to make a left turn and go north on Reesor Rd. Approaching traffic dictated that the camera car (me) give the right of way to them and wait for a safe time to make the left turn. I was happy to do that.

To add complexity to the situation was a southbound Reesor Rd. vehicle (the green car in the video) who was waiting to make a left turn to go east on Steeles Ave. E. This motorist has a stop sign to obey and as such must wait for the intersection to clear completely to make a safe turn. They had to wait for westbound Steeles traffic to clear and for the camera car to make their left turn from Steeles to Reesor.

The confusion arose when a westbound motorist decided to cede their right of way to either help the southbound motorist make their left turn or to help me make mine. I wasn’t sure and neither was the southbound driver. Confusion reigned.

The only thing that seemed obvious was the westbound car wasn’t going to move until someone else did.

With traffic backing up behind the camera car, the westbound driver furiously flashing their high beams and waving their hand and the southbound driver apparently waving off any help, I took the initiative and made my turn. I did so because the southbound driver was obviously ready to wait their turn and the westbound driver was far enough away as to not threaten my turn and they obviously wanted someone else to move.

Possibly the westbound vehicle had stalled and couldn’t move which could explain the hand waving and flashing of the headlights? Confusion reigned.

The stand-off could have gone on for quite a while if someone didn’t make a move. At that moment it appeared my moving first was the safest. I would have preferred waiting for my turn.

Out of kindness came confusion. It was well meant but there are times when following the rules is better.

I have heard of collisions resulting from this kind of compassion.

When you have the urge to be kind, please do so but do it when there will not be any confusion. If you have the right of way, take it and do so with safety in mind. You may have the right of way but it doesn’t mean other motorists are cognizant of that fact.

I have heard of drivers being charged with “Failing to take the right of way” when they should have. I have not heard if it stood up in the courts or what the fine or penalty is.

In short, it is best to take the right of way when it is yours.

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