There is, some 5 minutes walk from my home a particularly busy side road. During the rush hour a stream of vehicles uses the road making it problematic for a sighted person (let alone a registered blind guide dog owner, such as myself to cross in safety). Guide dogs are taught to work in a straight line and to avoid obstructions. On reaching a down kerb the dog stops and waits for the owner’s instructions regarding when to cross. While guide dogs do have training on crossing roads it is (as one guide dog trainer explained it to me) rather like having a young child assist you to cross. The young child (we are talking about a 4-5-year-old here) will (if properly instructed by adults on road safety) have some conception of road safety, however one wouldn’t want to place one’s life in their hands when traversing busy traffick. Consequently guide dog owners should ask for help at busy roads only trusting to their dog’s abilities in the event that no help is available. Obviously the presence of zebra and pelican crossings mean that visually impaired people can cross in safety at such places, however the road I am talking about is neither of these. Having said all that, I am extremely lucky as my guide dog, Trigger is very cautious and has saved me on several occasions from walking out in front of oncoming vehicles which, along with his loveable personality makes us extremely close.
Many drivers, on seeing me and Trigger stop to let us cross. This is as it should be at zebra and pelican crossings. However in certain instances the helpfulness of drivers unintentionally puts Trigger and I at risk. For example, at the side road mentioned above, traffick comes from both left and right. I have often experienced drivers to the right of me stopping and beeping their horns or shouting “it’s safe to go mate”, only to have vehicles continuing to traverse the road from the left. What is extremely helpful in such situations is for a driver to stop his vehicle and if it is safe to do so leave it and assist me in crossing. This has happened several times but on many other occasions drivers have, I am sure scratched their heads in frustration as they wonder why that stupid blind guy with the brindle lab retriever isn’t responding to their helpful advice that it is safe to cross! The answer is, of course that said guy doesn’t particularly feel like decorating the wind screen of an oncoming vehicle as it comes in, at speed from the left! So if you encounter a guide dog owner while driving please don’t shout out of your vehicle that it safe to cross. I know you mean well and I do, genuinely appreciate your kindness, however you may, wholly unintentionally be putting me or other guide dog owners at risk. If it is safe to do so please do stop for a moment and assist me or the other guide dog owner across the road. You will be performing an invaluable service which will be greatly appreciated by me or which ever guide dog owner you assist.