“So Here’s the Thing…” is a recurring column here on Scott’s World in which I address a particular topic that is either a source of frustration for myself, a controversial subject in society, or a current event on which I have a strong opinion. Let me stress again that if you won’t be able to handle my occasionally-polarizing commentary then you should probably skip these posts. Today’s column is on:
It’d be easy for me to fill pages and pages with the things that bother us all about traffic and specifically other drivers. I’m not going to do that. We’ve all been through those things a thousand times already when we complain to our friends or family about some idiot who cut us off on the way home from the office yesterday. Instead I’d simply like to clear up a few things for everyone, because I honestly feel that one of the biggest problems we have in the world today is that people simply do not understand the “why” behind many of the things we do. If we could really get everyone to truly comprehend why they are expected to do or not do certain things, then life would be much better for us all. Here’s my first example:
I am constantly amazed by how something as simple as the turn signal can be the source of so much trouble. Drivers are regularly not using it at all or using it at the wrong time. Let me explain how this is supposed to work. The purpose of the turn signal on a vehicle is to let other people around you — those in another vehicle and those on foot — know that you are going to be slowing down and turning soon. Again, to let them know that you are going to be slowing down and turning soon. One more time, for emphasis: Going to be slowing down and turning. The turn signal is not necessary in order to make your vehicle capable of changing direction, it is just there as a device to inform others of your intentions out of basic courtesy and in the interest of safety. So, if you put on your signal after you have already pressed the brake pedal and slowed down to turn, then you are doing it too late for it to make any difference. The guy behind you has already had to slam on his brakes because your turn is taking him by surprise. If you put on your signal after you are already in a turn-only traffic lane, then you are wasting your effort to even bother because everyone can already see that you are going to be turning. If you put on your signal while you are already in the act of turning your vehicle, then, again, you are far too late and there is no point in even bothering to do so. And one of my favorites — if you put on your turn signal three blocks back from where you are actually planning to turn, then it is like the old story of the boy who cried “wolf.” Each potential turn that you come to will have everyone around you thinking that is where you are going to turn, and eventually they will not be prepared when you actually do make the slow down and turn. So please, everyone, remember: approach, then signal, then brake, then turn.
And for those of you who don’t bother to use the turn signal at all, I’m just going to say right now that you’re a moron. Other cars need to know what you are going to be doing. You can’t read their minds so why do you think that they can read yours? When you get rear-ended because the person behind you did not realize that you were going to be slowing to turn, you have no right to be angry at that driver. Frankly, you deserved it and they didn’t.
The next thing I wanted to vent about here is speed. Some of you are going entirely too fast, and some of you are not going nearly fast enough. For those of you in the former category, the obvious problem is that you are breaking the law. The speed limit is not a recommendation. It is the law, which is why you can be pulled over and ticketed for violating it. But I’m not about to preach about staying under the speed limit, because really that isn’t the point I want to make here. The point is that if you are driving at a speed far faster than the majority of other people on the road, you are endangering everyone. Let’s say that everyone on the road is speeding along at 75 mph. When you come flying from behind and pass everyone at 95 mph, you not only run the risk of crashing into another vehicle that might move inadvertently into your path, but you also could cause others to crash as they try to get out of your way.
For those of you who like to drive slowly, thinking you’re being safer by doing so, the same reasoning applies. As others catch up to you and want to go around, your slowness can create accidents. Particularly frustrating and dangerous are those of you who are travelling slower than other traffic and are in the left lane. Newsflash: The slower the vehicles are going compared to other vehicles on the road, the farther to the right they are supposed to be driving. If there are cars going slower than you, you should be to the left of them, and if there are cars going faster than you, you should be to the right of them. This is basic Driver’s Ed stuff, people, and yet I see drivers every single day who do not seem to understand this.
Whether traffic is moving fast or slow, the best and safest strategy is to drive at relatively the same speed as everyone else. If you think some other driver is a jerk who is driving too fast, just get to the right and let him go by. Stubbornly staying in the left lane while going slower than others is only creating more of a risk of car crashes around you.
Third I’d like to discuss Stops. You should stop at all Stop signs. You should stop at all red traffic lights. You should stop when the gates are down at a railroad crossing. I’ll tell you where you should not stop — in the middle of the freaking road! If the road ahead of you is clear and open and there are no traffic devices directing you to stop your vehicle, then you need to keep moving. Sure, it’s awfully nice of you to stop to let that guy on the side street who’s trying to turn onto this street come in, but it is also very dangerous. The people behind you are not expecting someone to stop when there’s no directed reason to, so you are just asking to get smashed into from behind when you do that. Your act of kindness could actually kill someone. Yes, it sure is sad that the poor guy trying to turn might have to wait a while longer, but that is the way the rules of the road work. The straightaway has the right-of-way. This same discussion can be had over all of those intersections that do not have four-way stops. If you don’t have a Stop sign facing you as you approach the intersection, you need to keep moving. That Mall entrance without a Stop sign or that Wal-Mart entrance without one are both places where you should not stop. Stopping where there is no Stop sign or traffic light can cause confusion among the other drivers at that intersection, and that can lead to accidents. Sometimes I think they need to put up Do Not Stop signs in those spots and then maybe people will follow them.
What all of this really comes down to is that when you are driving you really have to keep in mind that you are not the only one on the road. You can’t just do whatever you want to simply because it is convenient for you at the time. Every time you perform any action with your vehicle without considering how that action might affect nearby drivers you are creating the possibility of a traffic accident. That means if you are in the far left lane of the interstate and you realize that you’re about to miss your exit, you don’t whip your car to the right across four lanes of traffic to try to make it in time. It means if there’s a traffic jam and you are late for work, you don’t just drive on the shoulder to get around everyone else. It means if you realize a couple minutes after leaving that you forgot something at home, you don’t just stop and do a U-turn in the middle of the street.
Please, people — follow traffic laws and be considerate of others while driving. It will make the roadways easier for all of us.
(P.S. I know you were all expecting me to include the whole texting-and-driving thing in this post. Don’t worry, it’ll have it’s very own post some time in the future.)
“Drive carefully. Think of the impact you could make.”