Caution when driving

A couple of days ago I was waiting to pull out of a parking lot. I was signaling my intention to turn right into the street. There were a lot of cars coming from my left, so I waited patiently and, when I saw a space coming, prepared to merge int the traffic. Just as I was ready to pull into the traffic lane, I made a quick glance to my right and there was a pedestrian, just a foot or so away from my car. Fortunately my foot was sill on the brake and so nothing bad happened, but it shook me. I had been so fixated on looking at the cars coming from my left that I wasn’t paying attention to the whole picture. We teach our children to look left, look right and look left again, and I wasn’t following this basic rule of safety.

A bit chastened by my near-mistake, I have been trying to remain more vigilant, more focused and more attentive to my driving. In doing so, I’ve been noticing other drivers as well.

To the woman who was talking on her phone by cradling it between her left shoulder and her ear, you probably shouldn’t be talking on the phone while driving at all, but if you must do so, invest in a hands-free device. There is no way that you can have a full visual scan - you can’t even look in your right and rearview mirror - when you cradle the phone like that. And I know that you weren’t bing attentive to the speed limit. I was following you as you continued through town.

To the man who passed me while I was slowing to a stop at the light, the yellow light applies to you, too. And, for the record, you didn’t save much time. Two miles later as we rounded the corner and headed into down town, you were only one car length ahead of me.

To the person of unknown gender who was weaving in and out of traffic, changing lanes every little way, trying to be the fastest car in a line of traffic in what passes for our morning rush hour, you were not only being dangerous, you were making other drivers angry with you. Having other drivers angry doesn’t do much for your safety and it doesn’t help you reach your destination faster.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Rapid City, we’re a relatively small city and we have limited financial resources for municipal projects. We can’t afford a rush hour. The best we can muster is ten or fifteen minutes when it might take five minutes longer to drive across town than is the case most of the time. And that traffic is limited to just a few areas in our town. We simply are in no position to have real gridlock and severe traffic jams that plague larger cities.

To all of the other drivers. I really wish you no ill. I don’t want to be in your way and I want you to reach your destination safely. But you people really pull some very dangerous stunts. It is a wonder we don’t have more severe accidents. I know that this time of the year the stripes painted on the streets aren’t as bright as they are just after the paint truck has passed, but for the most part our crews keep the roads well marked. I can drive my pickup truck, filled with firewood, pulling a trailer also filled with wood around town and through the winding areas of the road to our home while driving at the speed limit without wandering from my lane. It isn’t that hard and if your car is in good mechanical condition with good tires, I can’t understand why you can’t stay in your lane. After all, the stripes are probably mostly worn off by people like you who keep crossing over them on every corner.

And to the flat landers - and you know who you are - you grew up in a place with no hills or mountains and are used to straight highways with few curves - to you, I’m not sure why you think that dying in a flaming head-on collision is preferable to sliding off of the edge of the road, but neither is required of those of us who drive on the curves in the hills. We drive around those curves every day and don’t feel any urge to cut the corners and feel no fear of sliding off the edge of the road even when there is a steep drop. It is OK to stay in your lane. The engineers didn’t make half of the road less stable. People don’t go crashing over the guard rails and into steep canyons anywhere near as often as they run into cars going the opposite direction. While it is sometimes entertaining - and even comical - to follow you, you do scare me at times with your wandering around the road.

I drive a 19-year-old car with 270,000 miles on it, but I keep good tires and brakes on it. I do, however acknowledge that it isn’t in peak mechanical condition. My speedometer jerks and doesn’t always read accurately. So I have a GPS that also reports my speed. Between the two, I pretty much keep track of my speed at all times. And I find the speed limit signs on the road easy to see and read. While I sometimes find it annoying to be following someone who is driving 40 in a 45 mph zone, it never ceases to amaze me when the same driver continues to drive 40 mph when we get to the 35 mph zone. You’d think they’d at least change their speed a little bit. And some of the people who drive the same speed regardless of the posted limit are my neighbors who live in the same neighborhood and drive the same roads every day as I do. They are familiar with the roads. They should be familiar with the speed limits.

So if you’re driving out there, be careful. We don’t want you or anyone else to get hurt. And for every one of you that is out there, there is some old coot like me who will make fun of you for every time you do something stupid.

Chances are pretty good that pedestrian has been telling of his near brush with the driver who got obsessed with the street traffic and wasn’t paying attention to the sidewalk. If you hear a story about an old coot in an old car it is probably me.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!