A good friend of mine and his wife love to travel the world, and they are particularly fond of cruises. Last year they and I were both in Copenhagen right about the same time although we didn’t cross paths. I see their Facebook posts from various ports of call, and enjoy seeing the exotic locations their footloose lifestyle allows them to visit.
Later in the year I was shocked to see a photograph of my friend’s wife’s damaged legs, which include tire tracks. She was hit by a car.
Not in some busy foreign port. Not in some insane Italian city where people don’t watch out for pedestrians.
My friend’s wife was crossing the street in San Jose, California. She had the right of way, the WALK sign, when she was hit by a car while on her way back from a Sharks game.
By all accounts, Ann’s lucky she’s alive. My friend reports they still met in Lisbon, Portugal to head off on another Viking cruise, but Ann was in a wheelchair, thanks to this driver.
In a report released on March 30th this year by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, “the number of pedestrians killed in traffic jumped 11 percent last year, to nearly 6,000. That’s the biggest single-year increase in pedestrian fatalities ever, and the highest number in more than two decades,” according to a story by National Public Radio.
Because there are more cars on the road, that means more irritation from drivers and people who are impatient with lights. Or in a phone fight. Or just got fired. Combine that with distracted driving, and we’ve got a perfect storm. Add night, alcohol, devices, well. People like Ann get mowed down because someone simply isn’t paying attention.
I call this DWS. Driving While Stupid. People should be ticketed for it.
Yield to Cars, Not Pedestrians
I’ve noticed as well in my rather quiet Colorado neighborhood that basic traffic manners are out the door. When I am out either running or speed walking, cars often don’t wait for me to cross the street. I have to wait for them or get run over. Many times they don’t even stop at the stop signs. Laws be damned. That the pedestrian has the right of way means nothing.
When driving towards the stop light at my local shopping center I have noticed people making left hand turns at the last possible second in front of me, causing me to nearly hurtle through my windshield. I drive the speed limit. I am beyond understanding why that extra half-second is so goddamned important that this driver- a young woman- would risk her baby and dog just to get into the Safeway parking lot.
How can that extra half-second be worth the lives of your family?
Driving While Stupid. So what are you going to say to the police when the ambulance is taking away the corpses of your baby and your dog? “But I just had to bid on those Louboutins- don’t you understand?”
The Dangers of Defensive Driving
The two times I’ve been profoundly injured, I have driven with great care to ensure that I don’t get hit in order to protect my damaged body. People have forced me off the road and into the grass, they roared up onto my bumper (if I dared drive the speed limit in my neighborhood) and otherwise endangered me and my freshly broken bones.
Invariably, we end up next to each other at the light. The same asshole who drove me off the road. Rode my bumper. Sure bought them a lot of time.
Driving While Stupid.
The statistics don’t surprise me, because I see this behavior all over Colorado. People feel the influx of too many folks, their back roads and shortcuts are now jammed up, and they’re angry about it. People who move here from states where highly aggressive driving is the norm bring that culture with them. Frankly, it’s not welcome. I live in a kid-friendly neighborhood. We’ve had to put up signs and speed bumps. One street even boarded up ingress from a main road because folks sped down the side street to avoid driving by the local school, endangering the kids who lived there. Now those people speed down my street.
There’s a crossing one block south of my house on my street that has a stop sign but nobody stops there. When I approach it, I have the right of way but I slow down nearly to a stop. Why? I’ve nearly been T-boned by jerks in big pickup trucks on several occasions.
One of my neighbors tools up and down my street in a wheelchair. What are you going going to say if you T-bone that poor guy when you come barreling through? That you get ten extra points for disabled people?
Driving While Stupid.
There’s an elementary school just up the street from me with a school crossing area barely a tenth of mile long, with warning lights that clearly mark when little kids and their parents are out and about. Cars barrel through that area at 40 mph. The speed limit is 20. What do you think the results are when a tiny child, eager to see his mommy, runs across the street and meets your bumper at 40 mph? Increasingly, cyclists are getting killed because people drift over to the bike lane. Why?
Driving While Stupid.
The car is a two-ton weapon. Drivers who get swept up in the tiny worlds of their vehicles that are equipped with a plethora of distractions ranging from screaming kids to loud music an angry talk show that upsets them to texting to the TV in the back seat are already damned dangerous. Add to that alcohol, the devices that they are addicted to (and in some fantasy world they believe they can operate while driving) it’s no wonder people like Ann get run over.
She’s lucky it was just bruises. At 40 mph a hit nearly assures death.
Each year, over 330,000 accidents caused just by texting while driving lead to severe injuries. This means that over 78% of all distracted drivers are distracted because they have been texting while driving. In addition, about 421,000 people are injured in crashes that have involved a driver who was distracted in some way. You could be in a shouting match with your cheating boyfriend and plow over someone’s grandmother who was just trying to make to the curb. You could be focused on changing the radio stations on that big screen on your dashboard and flatten some kid on a skateboard who had the right of way when you ran the red light.
Driving While Stupid.
It’s bad enough that ISIS engages their “soldiers” to run into groups of people to inflict death and destruction. However we are doing it to ourselves in far greater numbers than any terrorist group.
We don’t need ISIS to make it terrifying to walk on the streets.
We’ve got plenty of people out there Driving While Stupid.
Just ask Ann how that worked out for her. The good news, at least Ann is alive to answer your question. For thousands of others, they weren’t so lucky.