The season encourages all of us, whatever our ages, to head outside while the sun shines -- although sunshine and heat have been all too rare so far this summer!
But lately, I’ve been witness to some situations where folks haven’t been using their common sense.
The other day I was driving north on the Wolf Lake Road north of Highway 148. As I approached the “S” turn where the Quyon railway station used to be, I slowed my speed. Right in the middle of the “S” were two tiny young boys, weaving all over the centre of the road. They were alone, on roller blades, and were totally unaware of the danger of traffic. They had no safety gear, instead wearing only T-shirts and shorts.
I immediately slowed down, checking my rear-view mirror. I tapped the horn very lightly, so as not to frighten the boys and, slowing almost to a crawl, waited until they pulled over to the right-hand lane before attempting to pass. They did pull over, but just as I started to pass, the youngster on the left suddenly veered toward me. I had to drive onto the oncoming lane’s shoulder to give him room.
After passing, I completed the “S” turn, looking ahead to see if there was any oncoming traffic. There was: another car was just heading into the turn, so I flashed my lights at the driver, who slowed down.
I continued heading north, and, over the crest of the next rise, found myself in the same situation: this time two older boys were weaving all over the road on bicycles. Again, they had no protective gear. I did exactly the same thing, tapping my horn so as to warn them of my presence, but the lad on the left veered uncontrollably into the oncoming lane as he looked behind him to see what vehicle was approaching.
Both incidents alarmed me: we want our children to enjoy their summer. But these four were very unsafe. As well, if you are visiting the Pontiac, your kids might be unaware that these seemingly pastoral backroads are well-used by swift-moving logging trucks through to slow-moving farm vehicles and horseback riders. All pose their own hazards that we need to heed.
In the interest of having a wonderful summer, I offer these timely reminders.
Perhaps because of the PPJ Cyclopark that is now open from Wyman to Waltham, there are increasing numbers of bicyclists on Highway 148. Many cyclists are exploring the backroads, whether on paved or gravel surfaces.
First of all, a word to the cyclists. Use safety helmets, rear-view mirrors, reflectors, and protective clothing. Practise road safety, staying to the right of your lane and be aware of traffic. Practise looking behind you as you cycle, so that you don’t veer into the traffic when you do so.
Most importantly, drive defensively, not offensively. Remember: you may be in the right, technically, but because you are so vulnerable in comparison to the logging and gravel trucks that travel many of the Pontiac roads, cyclists must take extra precautions.
If you are a parent, are you sure that your child is safe on the road? Perhaps a road-safety course is a good idea as a program at some of the local kid’s day-camps.
Drivers should expect to see increasing numbers of bikes on Pontiac roads as the PPJ Cyclopark becomes increasingly well-known and because no similarly safe recreational link for cyclists exists from Aylmer to Wyman. Drivers of all vehicles, from motorcycles to cars, from logging trucks to delivery vans, should drive with safety and caution in mind at all times.
As well, because the PPJ Cyclopark is banned to horseback riders, we’re seeing more and more horseback riders on the roads, too. Please: reduce speed so you don’t scare animal or rider.
Already, the National Capital Region’s first accident due to careless operation of personal watercraft has been reported, in Gloucester, Ontario. Last weekend, a 29-year-old man was charged with careless use of a vessel under the Canada Shipping Act after his craft collided with another. The two people using the other craft are suffering broken limbs.
Personal watercraft can be dangerous, as can be any vessel when operated carelessly. Learn about the rules and regulations governing watercraft -- and operate them within the law.
And please: be careful of wildlife. For example, don’t harass waterfowl. You may be an avid birdwatcher, but the wake from boats can drown birds such as loons. One reader has already telephoned to tell me of a dead baby loon. I have no way of telling whether this bird drowned: the callers simply said their cottage is on a lake that is increasingly busy with motorboats and personal watercraft.
More general rules: ensure you have bailing containers, emergency flares, as well as lifejackets (or “personal flotation devices) that fit for every person on board your craft. Check the rules: know what you must, by law, have on board. Practise capsizing, and ensure family members know what to do in an emergency.
Swimmers, snorkelers, scuba divers and other water enthusiasts should also take precautions. Know your own capability, swim with a buddy, and be particularly watchful of youngsters. Ensure that your “personal flotation devices” really do float, really do fit, and that they are worn properly.
And, as with driving or operating a craft, swimmers and others should stay alert to what else is happening in the water around them.
While you explore, pack out what you pack in. Leave nothing but your footprints on the beach or along the trail. Enjoy our lovely lakes, beautiful backroads and natural attractions.
Happy, safe summer, everyone!
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer based near Quyon. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org