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February 26, 2024

Driving Me Crazy

By Sailor Jim Johnston

Is it just me? Have people become worse drivers in the past thirty years? Does anyone else see this?

How many of you run yellows at stoplights. Honestly, now ... fess up. The light just changes from green to yellow and do you slow or speed up?

I have all sorts of friends who sincerely believe that there is no law against being in the intersection while the light is yellow. These same people will argue - just as sincerely - against tickets they've received for being in the intersection after the light has turned red on the grounds that (and I love this) they were going too fast to safely stop when it turned red!

Point out to them that yellow means "slow and prepare to stop," not "hit the gas, dummy, or you'll lose a whole three minutes out of your life," and they'll look at you like you're speaking Mandarin Chinese! (Follow it with the more direct, "if you didn't try to run yellows, you'd never be in the intersection when it turned red," and they'll look at you like a small weasel just poked its head out of your mouth and started speaking Mandarin Chinese.)

Then there are those who believe that "Stop" means, "slow down to at least five miles per hour." How many of you actually come to a complete stop when you hit a Stop sign and how many believe in "rolling stops."

"Rolling stop"; great phrase that, huh? A rolling stop is like a dry rain ... there ain't no such critter! If you are rolling, you haven't stopped and that's that!

Not just bad drivers, but bad parkers to boot! Parking between the lines is only marginally more difficult than coloring between the lines, something that most grade school-aged kids can manage, but check out your next parking lot.

Never mind the inconsiderate jerks parked illegally in the handicapped spaces, or sitting in the fire lanes, or sitting in the middle of the damn lane, clogging the way like a metal hunk of cholesterol ... no, never mind those dolts. Just check out how many drivers cannot seem to actually park their cars in the middle of a standard parking slot. If they somehow get it within the lines, period, they're generally right on one line or the other ... forcing the next parker to do the same just to be able to exit their car.

What the hell is happening here? When I was first driving, people who ran yellows were actually chased down by police and issued tickets. Nowadays, they are issued by an automated camera system, more likely than not, and there was a hell of a long period before the cameras started showing up, when nobody seemed to care.

When I was a kid, storeowners would actually keep an eye on their parking areas and call the cops on people who violated parking laws. Just try to get a Wal-Mart manager to even admit the parking lot belongs to the store, now.

Moreover, since the few jerks who used to run yellows and park as they please started getting away with it, the marginal drivers (the ones who believe that if others can do something, it must be okay for them to do it too) started doing it, too. Soon, if you parked well, stopped at Stop signs, or - heaven forbid - slowed down at a yellow light, the majority of your fellow drivers treated you like a dangerous aberration.

Or worse ... The other day I read about how a truck driver actually dragged a man out of his car and beat him for stopping for a yellow. To my utter astonishment (and not little horror) the first dozen people I mentioned this to seemed to believe that the truck driver didn't deserve to be jailed for this.

People, in any intersection in America, yellow honestly means "slow and prepare to stop." Most states have laws against running yellow lights, too. Here's a clue, folks; if waiting out an intersection light is too damn hard for you, than you should hand your car keys to your spouse or parent and stop friggin' driving! Ditto if coming to a full stop or parking your car, legally and neatly, is somehow beyond your abilities. Do us all a favor and start taking the bus or walk.

Or start driving within the law, just for the hell of it. I'm not saying stop speeding or stop playing your damn radio loud enough to make my windows vibrate (and I mean my house windows, not my car ... and my house is around 500 feet away from any road), I'm just saying how about mastering these three simple rules:

1. Slow and prepare to stop when the light turns yellow. If you do, you'll never be in the intersection during a red light and the chances of getting into an accident in the intersection will be greatly reduced.

2. Come to a complete stop at Stop signs. It's really no big deal. Just press the big pedal until your vehicle stops moving. Completely stops moving. Then count to two while making sure the intersection is clear and, if it is, then take your foot offa the big pedal and push the skinny one again. Simple, and doing so - if you make a habit of it - will result in a 100 percent reduction in tickets for running stops.

3. Finally, learn to park your damn car in the middle of a parking space. If you simply must park backwards, if it is just too damn difficult for you to reverse out of a parking space, then learn to back in and park in the middle of the space. Now, we all know nobody is going to give you a ticket if you park badly (hell, you could park diagonally across three handicapped spaces in front of the Chief of Police and you probably wouldn't get a ticket), but parking sloppy makes you look like a dork. Think of how much your personal reputation will go up when people come to associate your car or truck with neat parking. (And if that doesn't work, consider it an investment in keeping your paint job looking good, because the next poor schmuck who has to get in via his passenger door, due to your crappy parking job, might have a penny nail and no sense of humor ... even if he ain't me!)

Remember, nobody has a right to drive, but everyone has a responsibility to drive right. Make your community a happier and safer place and learn to do it well.

Article © Sailor Jim Johnston. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-09-25
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