Risks in dealing with panhandlers on medians
Editor: You are stopped in the left-turn lane, waiting for the light to turn green at the intersection ahead. A street person holding a cardboard sign is walking on the raised median beside your vehicle. He is trying to make eye contact, hoping you will give him a few dollars.
Do you ignore him and look away? Or do you take pity, roll down your window, give him some coins, and feel good inside that you’ve helped a person less fortunate than yourself?
Those who gave money to a left-turn lane panhandler have provided the financial incentive for them to be on the raised median in the middle of a roadway, creating a distraction that may cause a vehicle accident. Panhandlers are at risk of falling into the path of oncoming vehicles travelling at 60 km/h in the lane on the other side of the narrow median.
B.C. Motor Vehicle Act s. 182 makes it an offence for pedestrians to be on a roadway if there is a sidewalk on at least one side of the roadway, or to solicit money from occupants of a vehicle. The fine for such an offence is $109, which is significantly less than the $167 fine for distracted driving.
Have you wondered why the police have done little if anything to deter these left-turn-lane panhandlers? Perhaps it is because they may be agile and difficult to apprehend. Perhaps it is because they may be transients and unlikely to pay a fine. Perhaps the police are waiting for a serious accident to occur so there is justification for enforcing the law on the panhandlers who receive significant tax-free donations from well-intentioned motorists.
David J. Purser,