The Highway code: In Braille?

April 16, 2012

The March 2012 RNIB catalogue of new braille books contains an entry titled “The Official Highway Code” published by Driving standards agency. You don’t believe me? It’s in 3 braille volumes and the RNIB order number is 22805802. I would have missed this entry; when I get the catalogue, I usually look out for works of fiction. But I’m glad I explored the catalogue this time. It provided me one opportunity for uproarious laughter. The Highway code … in Braille?

But wait! Before you decide they’ve totally gone mad. On reflection, it’s probably a good idea to give blind people their own copy of the highway code. It must have been a very hard decision, for as the catalogue informs me, it was printed in 2007, and it’s just been produced in braille this year. There are books printed in 2012 that are already in braille.

Maybe this book will help me sort out the facts from rumours. For example, I used to think that the pedestrian had the right of way on a zebra crossing. Some people told me, but I’m not sure all drivers agree. Judging by the number of cars that have whizzed past my ankle as I tentatively stepped on the crossing, perhaps it’s not in the highway code … time to find out. To tell the truth, I’m not even sure that the code has any guidance for drivers at night. Should they wait at trafic lights when the green man shows up? I remember one morning a few years ago. It was about 5:30 and I was racing to the station to catch a train for the airport, so I could meet my dad. As I approached the lights, it started to beep. During the day, I had crossed this light so often that I knew that when it beeped, cars would normally stop and I could step across. But this morning, there was a car speeding towards me, and some commonsense prevailed on me to wait. I figured it was not the time to quote the law. While the light was still beeping, the car sped off, leaving me to wonder what could have happened if I believed the rumours that cars stop when the lights beep.

Many a time, I’ve been stepping across the road when the lights had supposedly permitted me. I would bump into a car that had crossed the line and just stopped. Maybe the driver saw the lights late, or maybe the sudden realisation that disobeying the lights this time might lead him/her onto the path of an oncoming bus affected the decisionmaking

To tell the truth, I’m not sure what to do with the lights. As I raced to church yesterday, late as usual, I approached another set of lights. I waited, but noticed that the cars had stopped. I wondered why, because I was sure the green man hadn’t come up, and I dared not cross the road. But the lead driver touched his car horn and I got the message. I rushed across the street shouting my thanks.

Someone once told me that cyclists are not supposed to cycle on the pavement, but on the road. So why is it that the one way bridge near my house is so full of cyclists, on the pavement, going against the trafic? The pavement is already so full , with other pedestrians, prams, wheelchairs, scooters, and lots more … and I’m usually late for something, or laden with shopping. What’s more, they expect me to stand aside while they break the law. Or perhaps that was a rumour too, and cyclists can do anything they like.

Next time you see me, I’ll probably be carrying a heavy rucksack containing all 3 volumes of the Highway Code. I’ll be ready to whip out the right volume, wave it at the offending driver or cyclist and say “you’re breaking the law, read this … oh you can’t, so I’ll read it to you”. Then again, I might discover that I’d been fed all these rumours, and drivers are not meant to obey lights, cyclists can do whatever they like and pedestrians take the law into their hands when they step onto the street.