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On The Road

Road Safety Myths

Think you know the road rules? We debunk 5 common road safety myths.

by Team Onlia

Road safety awareness is poor among young people, but misinformation can reach even the most experienced drivers. It’s important to know about the facts and misconceptions that surround road safety, so we’ve put together the top five myths many Ontarians may believe about driving safety and debunked them.

“Pedestrians always have the right of way.”

Most of the time that’s true, but not always.

In Ontario, stepping onto the road during the countdown on a crosswalk timer is against the law. However, it doesn’t give a motorist the freedom to hit a pedestrian. In fact, doing so could end with a charge of reckless driving. Pedestrian countdown clocks are specifically programmed to allow walkers to get across the road safely. It’s important to remember both as a driver and pedestrian who has the right of way and how to anticipate oncoming traffic. 

“Experienced drivers are less likely to get into accidents."

It’s a generally accepted belief that the more kilometres you clock in, the less likely it is you’ll get into accidents. However, many studies suggest accident rates have no correlation with the driver’s experience. No matter how experienced of a driver you may feel you are, it’s always advisable to be cautious and thoughtful.

The biggest reason for accidents involves driver fault, including impaired or reckless driving. This is more common among the younger generation for whom speed and alcohol make a deadly combination on the roads.

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“Other drivers have to let me onto the highway!”

Actually, no, they don’t.

As irritating as it may be to look over to a fellow driver hoping they’ll open a gap and let you merge onto the highway, and instead they leave no room whatsoever – Ontario law actually doesn’t require them to help you. For the most part, it’s up to you to merge onto highways in a safe and timely manner.

This might be a morsel of good news if you find yourself frustrated at drivers who wait until the last second to merge and butt into traffic. Driving to avoid accidents should always be paramount, but you shouldn’t rely on others to always cooperate. 

“I should brake if my car hydroplanes.”

No, you really shouldn’t.

Hydroplaning occurs when a layer of water slips between the vehicle's tire and the road. Due to poor road drainage, the tire can't move through the water, and instead glides on top of it. The rubber won’t touch the road itself, so the vehicle loses traction and the driver loses control of speed.

Braking or steering won’t help, because the tires aren't in contact with the road. Think of the wet road like a sheet of ice, so instead of slamming on the brakes or swerving out of the way, you should keep a firm grip on the wheel, take your foot of the brake and ensure your wheels are pointing forward so you don’t drift into a different lane or off the road.

“Being tired won’t affect my driving.”

You may think you’re impervious to drowsy driving, but in fact, it can be as deadly as drunk driving. Research by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation suggests that 26 per cent of all fatal and injury crashes are estimated to be related to fatigued or drowsy driving.

If you think a cup of joe or energy drink will curb your sleepiness, remember that caffeine takes several minutes to act. It can keep you more alert for a short time, but it won’t completely get rid of your sleep debt. Always assess your mood and level of wakefulness before you drive, and if you feel it may not be safe to get behind the wheel, don’t.

Road safety myths are abundant in the driving community. Regulations can easily be misunderstood and inaccuracies can spread like wildfire. Instead of simply listening to word of mouth, do your research on the Ontario government website and reputable organizations like Young Drivers Canada to make sure you’re up-to-date with the latest laws and practices.

Let us know which of these myths surprised you the most and tweet us @OnliaCA #OnliaCA.

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