Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Wave of Awareness - Staving Injury - Saving Lives

Whenever I walk across the street,
I'm ever so careful, to place my feet
Slowly, no running, not looking at stars,
And ever so careful to wave at the cars.
                                     (apologies to Alan Alexander Milne)

When I cross the street, I make a point of waving.  My 'wave of awareness'.  I don't always get a wave back, but often, I get an acknowledgement, a nod - and most important, a brake.

When I drive, I am always thankful for a 'wave of awareness' from pedestrians.

They see me. They're paying attention.  I feel a bit safer for them - we've connected via the wave.  When pedestrians don't acknowledge my  presence, or the fact that I slowed for them, I worry that the next driver might not be so careful.  Sometimes, I'm worried the driver behind me has not seen them - and might crash into me as I slow down.

Wave please. It's safer for you. And me too. I don't want to run over anyone. I know the mantra 'look both ways before you cross the street'.  And the driver's advice, 'watch out for pedestrians'.  But I also know the dangers.  Sometimes, when I'm driving - the sun is in my eyes.  Or bright lights.  Or rain or snow. I can't see everything.  I drive carefully, but I'm always worried.  What if a young child runs out in front of me without looking?

Just last week, a young schoolgirl stepped out from behind a bus - and was hit by a truck.  She lived, but it was not pleasant.  She didn't wave.  He didn't wave.

We need to go beyond 'look both ways'.

To a 'wave of awareness'.

When  you want to cross the street, even if you think the traffic is stopping - wave.  Don't waive your safety.

If you are driving, and someone wants to cross - a wave back says you've seen them, and you are stopping.  Flashing your lights can be a wave - it also says "OK, I see you, I'm stopping".

Connie Kaldor, one of my favorite singers; "I come from a land that is harsh and unforgiving.  Winter snows can kill you, and the summer burn you dry."  The pedestrian is outside, in the cold, or heat - and the driver is inside, usually warmer, or cooler.  In my world, the person on foot should have the right of way.

Sometimes I find myself in a wave war.  A nervous pedestrian wants me to go first.  I do so, carefully.  There may be a reason they want me to go first (they might be waiting to get into a car that is behind me).  But someone behind them might step out, assuming that I am stopping.

Some drivers are very worried about hitting pedestrians.  That's OK too.  They too also wind up in a 'war of waves', each trying to push the other forward.  First rule in a wave war?  Smile! Every wave is a gesture of friendliness.

One winter, many years ago, I was driving around a traffic circle, and a group of young teens were running through the centre.  They were not paying attention, and I slowed as I drove towards them - lucky for them, the traffic behind me slowed as well. One of them tripped on the curb, and fell onto the road in front of me.  I stopped. When she got up, I waved.  And she waved. I wished she had learnt the wave of awareness, I'd be happy to stop. She was embarrassed, I'm sure, but not badly hurt.

She looked.  I looked.  She thought she could get through before I got there - so she didn't stop.  She didn't wave.  She was talking to her friends, aware of the traffic, not aware of the curb. Lucky for her, and for me - I was paying attention, not eating, talking on my phone, or tuning the radio.  A moment of in-attention could have led to disaster.

Teach your children well.  Teach them to wave. And when they learn to drive - teach them to wave back.

What does the 'wave of awareness' look like?  It's not just a wave.  It's a wave of communications.  A stiff arm at the crosswalk can be a wave - if it's friendly. You might intend to communicate that you are crossing, but if the driver is.... not alert, blinded by sun or bright lights, distracted... there will be no return wave - and danger.

A wave of awareness looks for a response.

The response might not be a full wave. A raised hand, a tip of the head, or a flash of headlights.  No matter - the return wave says 'I see you, go ahead'. That too is a wave of awareness and communication.

If the traffic is already slowing or stopped - the wave is a thank you.

Of course you still need to be careful.  Is the traffic already slowing?  Has the driver really seen you? A thank you wave is always a good idea.

Is there traffic in the next lane? You may need to repeat the wave or look for a second or third acknowledgement. I grew up in a small town.  Everybody waved to everybody.  It works in the city too.

If you have the light, and the traffic is stopped, do you need to wave?  Of course not, but it never hurts to say thank you.  The wave of awareness is also a thank you.

But also, be aware... beware...

Even if you don't wave, it helps to 'think wave'.  When you 'think wave', you look.  Even when you have the light, and the traffic is stopped.  The driver turning right can 'go after stopping' on a red light - if the way is clear. But that driver might be in a hurry. Might not stop every time, might not see you.  That last lane, when you think you are almost safe - still needs a wave of awareness.

Watch out for that turning lane when you leave the curb as well.  The driver may be looking left, for traffic and not see you, on the right.  A wave of awareness, acknowledged, says it's OK to cross.

When driving, watch for the wave.  When walking - wave.  The wave of awareness, making friends, staving injury, saving lives. Don't rush to an accident.

yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: