This week’s editorial was always going to be about traffic, but the piece took a detour during writing. I had a neat little anecdote to tell about local traffic conditions and the veritable treasure hunt that is find- ing your destination with the rotating road closures but then I spent the week watching so many people drive so poorly that all humor drained from the situation, despite what could be charitably described as seeing many people drive like clowns.
In one case, a city-owned vehicle was making a right onto Broadway from 4th Street. Several pedestrians, including a sen- ior citizen, were crossing so the driver was waiting patiently when an idiot decided to lay on his horn. I don’t have the specifica- tions of old Honda’s memorized, but unless he had an after-market horn crafted from the fountain of youth, the noise isn’t going to help the woman with a walker move any faster; nor should she have to. Pedestrians have every right to cross when the lights allow. The guy honking was several cars back from the intersection and therefore unable to see the pedestrians but he didn’t let his ignorance prevent him from sounding his displeasure at being asked to wait 30 seconds to allow people to cross.
Later in the week, I watched a nincom- poop, turn right onto Ocean Avenue, but not into one of the two lanes of traffic. Instead, this guy turned into the parking/bike lane, forging his own third lane of stupidity. He felt so entitled to ignore traffic laws and basic decency that he actually responded angrily to drivers who honked and then had to swerve to avoid colliding with him when he decided to meander back into traffic.
It’s not just private drivers who are con- tributing to the bad behavior. I watched a pair of Big Blue Buses make right turns onto Broadway. The first made the turn just fine. But the second, who was following behind the first at a distance of a few feet, failed to make the turn, leaving his bus askew across the entire east bound half of the intersection.
That alone would have been enough to justify some road rage, but it was made
worse by a moron in a white Fiat who decid- ed it would be a good idea to try to make his right turn in between the now-stuck bus and the curb. Large vehicles need a wide turning radius so Mr. Fiat had effectively stranded the already poorly placed bus. After a couple of light cycles, the bus became unstuck, but Mr. Fiat chose to make up for the delays he had created by full-on running the next three red lights. I know he ran those lights because after running one light, he would find himself stopped in traffic at the next block where those of us who understand that green means go, caught up to him only to see him run the next light, causing a rip- ple of break lights each time.
Yes, traffic is bad, particularly near the construction sites or the beach, but these weren’t problems that should be attributed to external factors. These were really, gen- uinely stupid decisions made by drivers who thought they had some right to behave badly. It’s an all too common phenomenon: People get behind the wheel of a car and feel like they are in a mobile fiefdom rather than a part of a larger whole. It’s a dangerous atti- tude but what can you do about it?
First and foremost, if you’re a bad driver, admit it. It’s a hard admission to make, but try. Ask your friends or family about it and take a moment to think about your time on the road. If you’re always in the middle of a problem, maybe you’re causing the problem.
Second, call the police. Stupidity itself may not be a crime but the application of it to the road is. In a non-emergency situation you can call 458-8993 to reach the traffic division and hit “1” to report a road issue. In a life-threatening emergency dial 9-1-1.
Finally, be flexible. Don’t let the poor decisions of others lure you into also making poor decisions. Roads are a shared resource and they only function when the group as a whole works together.
Traffic is bad all on its own and we don’t need to make it worse through our lack of attention.