Traffic Lights & Safe Road Travel
South Africa is known for their own road rules and for load shedding. Although there is humour in having vagrants direct traffic at intersections with whistles and reflective vests, it is an absolute nightmare for the visually impaired.
Navigating an intersection is a stressful task on a good day, now try and picture yourself navigating one without working traffic lights, no points men and drivers going when they please and stopping anywhere in the road.
This is a daily struggle for our Guide-Dog users!
Guide-Dogs are taught how to respond to traffic. Although they have self-preservation instinct, they are not naturally cautious towards cars. It is our responsibility and number one priority to teach the Guide-Dog to keep the handler safe at all times. During our traffic training sessions, it is the first time the dog is allowed to override the handler’s instructions by performing what we call Intelligence Disobedience. The Guide-Dog disobeys the instruction from the handler out of their duty as a Guide to keep their person safe.
Dog disobeying the forward command
Intersections consisting of traffic lights are navigated by the Guide-Dog Owner and NOT the dog. Contrary to popular belief, the dog cannot see the colours of the traffic lights and it is not their decision when it is safe to go. The Guide-Dog Owner listens to the cycles of the intersection and will instruct the dog to start walking when their parallel traffic pulls off at the start of the cycle. This is the safest way for our clients to cross an intersection due to the unfortunate reality that 90% of our traffic lights in South Africa DO NOT have pedestrian beepers on them thus leaving the responsibility of safe navigation to the Guide-Dog Owner.
Moving with traffic Dog obeys forward command
Load shedding and unlawful drivers put our clients at risk on a daily basis. Although our Guide-Dogs and clients receive extensive training regarding road safety, crossing intersections can be the most dangerous journey they embark on.
If you want to assist a Visually Impaired individual cross an intersection either with a Guide-Dog or a White Cane, please do not hoot at them when it is “clear” for them to cross – they cannot see that you are waving for them to walk, they are listening to the traffic cycles. Rather get out your vehicle and ask if you may help them cross the road.
When stopping at a traffic light, please be mindful of the pedestrian crossings and allocated lines. Stopping over these lines force our clients to walk closer to the intersection and not directly in line with their up-curb causing them to veer off their straight line of travel.
Stop at curb because taxi is in the way