A very bad idea

October 13, 2016, 9:36am, Burnaby, BC. A person with a loaded shopping cart wants to cross all six lanes of Kingsway, busy with the morning rush. Incredibly, someone driving in the center lane ahead of me decides to stop and let the person cross. There’s just one problem: nobody else can see what’s going on. I notice only at the last moment, soon enough to avoid the person crossing if they had been dumb enough to continue.

Watch the top of the video starting at about 0:08, just beyond the long row of stopped cars in the lane to my right.

(Sorry about the weird camera angle. Someone tilted the camera and I failed to notice earlier.)

In the rear view, I watched as the crosser sensibly retreated.
Meanwhile, the cop in the car ahead of me either didn’t notice, or didn’t care, neither of which makes them look good.

Drivers: please don’t stop for pedestrians crossing busy streets unless
you know for sure all other drivers can see them.

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It’s only a matter of time

… before the tiny woman driving the enormous white Hummer that drove me off the road yesterday kills someone. I was southbound on Fraser Road in Vancouver, and the Hummer was in the left lane, beside me and slightly ahead. Without any warning (like, you know, a signal or something), the Hummer veered into my lane, surprising me enough that the only thing I could do was stamp on the brakes and steer towards the curb. Seeing no reaction at all from the driver of the Hummer, I followed it for a couple of blocks and pulled up beside it. I could barely see the driver’s head through the side window. How can she drive that thing without being able to see anything? How did she get a license? I shudder to imagine what it would look like to see her try to park that thing. Anyway, I gave her a big ironic ‘thumbs up’ and left her to presumably wonder what I meant. Well, she’ll figure it out sooner or later when she maims or kills someone.

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Worst driver ever

It’s been a while since I posted here, but for this, I just had to.

So I’m driving on a highway, limit 90 km/h. Traffic is moderately heavy. I’m in the right lane, doing about 10 k over the limit like everyone else. Suddenly, the car ahead of me applies the brakes. Not hard, but he’s definitely slowing. I slow down to avoid  rear-ending him, and I see that the cars ahead of him are also slowing. I figure maybe someone has slowed to pull over and everyone will get back up to speed shortly. But I was wrong.

With cars in the left lane now whizzing past, the right lane comes to a complete stop. I poke my head out of the window, and I can just see a car, about ten cars in front of me, stopped and signalling left. I’m starting to worry now, because stopping on a highway is an extraordinarily bad idea, and I know that it’s just a matter of time before someone gets rear-ended and we maybe get a chain reaction pile-up.

I hear the cars between me and the idiot at the front of the right lane honking, and some of them start looking for openings in the left lane traffic to get around this idiot. Cars are building up behind me now too, and some of them are trying to get into the left lane as well, but traffic there is steady. Eventually, there are holes, and people in front of and behind me start filling them.

Of course, those holes are what the idiot at the front was waiting for, because what she really wanted was to make a left turn. She stopped because she didn’t want to miss her turn. She didn’t pull over. She didn’t keep driving until she found a safe place to turn around. No. She stopped dead in the middle of a highway.

Eventually she forced herself into the left lane, and from there into a turning lane, and made her left turn. I was screaming in disbelief and disgust at this point, and so were many of the drivers around me. I witnessed a lot of wild gesticulating as well, and a lot of exaggerated head shaking. And so we all moved on. I waved at the idiot, in a non-friendly way, though I doubt she noticed.

Incredibly, we all emerged from this incident unscathed. I believe that nine times out of ten, this kind of thing would lead to one or more collisions, and possibly serious injury. In a way, I was almost sorry nobody collided, because I would have enjoyed enormously providing excellent testimony in the idiot’s dangerous driving trial. This person should not be driving, and I worry that she shares the road with my parents. It’s only a matter of time before she causes a serious accident.

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Not the worst driver ever, but close

Driving  to work this morning, I came to a crosswalk with a red light, so I stopped.  Most crosswalks here use stop lights that point in two directions along the road being crossed (as opposed to regular stop lights that point in four or more directions).  These lights flash green until a pedestrian presses a button, whereupon they go red for a minute or so.  Drivers must obey these signals exactly as if they were regular stop lights.

I didn’t see a pedestrian, which means they probably already crossed before I got there.  Anyway, when I stopped, there was a car stopped opposite me, in the oncoming lane.  This car was signaling for a right turn.  The crosswalk in question is – like so many others – at an intersection of a minor cross street.  Access to the main road from the cross street is controlled by stop signs.  There has always been some ambiguity regarding whether it’s okay to turn right at a crosswalk that’s currently RED if doing so causes your car to pass through the crosswalk, so I just assumed that the driver wasn’t sure and was waiting for the light to go back to flashing green before turning.

As I waited for the light to go back to flashing green, in the car opposite me, the driver looked up from whatever they had been doing, and without waiting for the light to go green, drove straight through the crosswalk – while still signaling for a right turn.  The car behind them pulled forward and stopped, and its driver and I exchanged a puzzled look.

For those of you playing at home: how many mistakes were made by the first driver opposite me, and what were they?

Not the worst driver ever, but close Read More »

Selfish driving behaviour exemplified

A few days ago I witnessed a perfect example of the kind of bad driving behaviour I would most like to eliminate.  A driver entered the left turn lane at a busy intersection and took his place at the head of that lane, waiting for the light to change.  In this case, there is an advanced left turn signal that allows perhaps a dozen cars to make that turn before the next wave of two-way traffic pours into the intersection.

As I watched from one of the lanes opposite this driver, waiting for the same light, the two-way advanced green started flashing, and the driver in question just sat there.  He then turned off his left turn signal.  When the advanced green ended and the regular green lit up, he pulled into the intersection slightly and began trying to merge with the traffic going straight through the intersection.  He was eventually successful.

Let’s set aside the danger of attempting to merge into through traffic from the middle of a busy intersection.  That danger is significant, but it’s not what I want to talk about here.  Instead, consider the long line of people behind the driver in question, hoping to get through the intersection, turning left on the advanced green.  Normally, those people would have gotten through on one cycle, but because our driver was plugging the lane, they had to wait for at least one more cycle.  That takes a few minutes.  Our driver has just wasted a dozen drivers several minutes out of their day.

And what did our driver gain for this?  If he had simply made the left turn and then turned around at the next opportunity, he would have wasted a few minutes of his own day, but no other drivers would have been affected.  Did our driver consciously decide that his own time is worth more than that of twelve other drivers, combined?  Or is it more likely this just never occurred to him?  Did he simply panic?  Unfortunately, none of these alternatives are very appealing.  The driver was one or all of these things: selfish, oblivious or panic-stricken.

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I blame the parents

My daily drive to work includes a small stretch along a road that is crossed by students on their way to the local elementary school. It never ceases to amaze me when they – frequently – fail to look for cars as they cross.  Worse, yesterday I watched as a teenager, with tiny tots in tow, crossed the road without looking.  Here’s a supposedly responsible person, or at least someone deemed responsible by the parents of the smaller kids, blindly leading these kids across a street.  Sure, I know my car is relatively small and quiet, but that’s not the point.  You look, because your other senses can deceive you.

My parents, and those of my peers, drilled into our heads from a very young age the importance of being careful when crossing roads. “Look both ways” was the refrain. I can’t help thinking that this failure is at least partly due to the overwhelming emphasis on making everything safe these days. In the UK, it’s disparagingly referred to as the “nanny state.”  I’m a good, safe driver, so there’s no way I’m going to hit these kids.  But that’s just me.  A lesser, or impaired driver, is going to kill these kids one of these days. Perhaps that’s why there are are so many roadside memorials.  Could it be that parents are no longer teaching their children the basics of safety?

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A senseless death

Last week a member of my extended family was hit by a car while driving his motorcycle. He sustained serious injuries to one leg and several ribs. His prognosis was good, but died a few days later. The person in the car that hit him had been drinking, and ran the light in the intersection where this occurred. The light was red. This driver of the car has taken full responsibility.

Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to drive when you’ve been drinking. Or that it’s okay to run a red light. But most people hearing this story would focus on one or both of those things as being the causes of this tragedy. I disagree. The cause was lack of attention. If you read this blog long enough, you’ll find that this is a running theme. In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I believe we could get rid of most driving-related offenses, keeping only two: dangerous driving and careless driving. Because when you really look at it, these are the root causes of all motor vehicle accidents.

Take the driver of the car in this case. Drinking tends to dull one’s senses, so she was at a disadvantage right away. However, I maintain that if she had recognized her disability, she could have compensated by driving with extreme care and focus. And even if, by some stretch of the imagination, she still felt that she needed to run a red light when she knew she was impaired, if she had at least paid proper attention while approaching and moving through the intersection, she could have easily avoided the accident. You may insist that without knowing the details this is purely speculation, but put yourself in her place and go through it. Leaving aside her poor decisions, if she had at least been paying due attention, two lives (and possibly more) would not have been destroyed.

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Idiots all around me

I’m back. Moved to Vancouver and goofing off between jobs. Which means I’m not driving much, so I didn’t think I would have much to say here. WRONG. Almost every time I do drive, someone does something around me that is just retarded. I’m posting this because today I was driving home after doing some shopping, and witnessed something so ridiculous that I could hold my tongue no longer.

Here’s the setup: I was approaching an intersection between two major roads (four lanes all ’round) and wanted to turn left. To get to the left turn lane, I had to first change from the curb lane to the center lane, so I signaled and slid in behind Mr. I. OwnTheRoad and his wife. I sized up Mr. O. immediately: slow-moving, hesitant; yes – elderly. He was driving significantly slower than the limit, but I wasn’t concerned, since the turn lane started in a few car lengths and he would no longer be able to annoy me (hopefully forever). Still, I sensed something in his wobbly movements that caused me to wonder if he intended to turn left as well.

The entrance to the left turn lane arrived, but no signal and no positive movement to the left by Mr. O. For safety, I allowed a couple more car lengths of the left turn lane to pass, then concluded I had been wrong (it does happen) and Mr. O was not planning to turn after all.

I signaled left, moved into the left turn lane, and – hoping to get to the intersection soon enough to trigger the advanced left turn signal, I moved promptly past Mr. O. to the sensors before the light changed. I patted myself on the back: nice job!

But what’s this? I hear a loud honk. I look around, trying to determine its source. I check the rear view mirror. Could it be? Yes! It’s Mr. O! He’s vigourously wagging his head and pointing at me, clearly indicating “yes, it was me that honked, and I honked at you!”

Lately, when something idiotic happens on the road, I try not to get enraged and instead work on figuring out what, exactly, the idiot involved was thinking that led to the event. But in this case, I’m stumped. What did Mr. O. think I had done wrong? The only way my actions could have led to any danger would be if Mr. O. had failed to notice my signal or my movement into the turn lane and crashed into me when he moved left. By the way, he never signaled, at least not in my view. I can only assume that Mr. O. feels that he should be able to do anything he wants on the road, no matter how stupid, but that this right does not apply to anyone else.

As the advance turn light flashed, I pulled away from Mr. O., shaking my head slowly in disbelief. I glanced back to see him gesticulating to his wife, apparently explaining why he was so upset. I can understand her confusion.

P.S. My sister wants me to mount a camera in my car to record these idiotic events. She says every time she’s with me, someone does something idiotic in front of me (indeed they do) but that she’s never seen anyone do these things in her previous experience on the road. I guess she’s saying I’m somehow cursed. Oh joy. Well, at least I’ll have something to blog about.

P.P.S. It just occurred to me that perhaps Mr. O.’s rear left turn light may be burned out, which still wouldn’t exactly make him look like a great driver, but at least it could explain his anger. Ah, but I doubt it, since he also failed to use his signal at the intersection. The mystery remains.

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Beyond oblivious

It’s bad enough that people do stupid things while driving. It’s much worse when they don’t even realize they’re doing it. But the really amazing thing is when drivers do stupid things and somehow feel that the fault was not theirs, but yours.

I encountered someone like this today. Picture an empty road, with Mr. Idiot a hundred feet ahead of me. He’s not going particularly fast, so I’m catching up. At this point, the single lane becomes two, and there’s a big sign saying “SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT.” Since by now I’ve caught up, I start to wonder which lane Mr. Idiot will choose, as I want to get past him. In this town, there’s no way to predict this, even though the law, the sign, safety and common sense dictate that Mr. Idiot should move into the right-hand lane.

Mr. Idiot makes his move. He drifts partially into the right-hand lane, then drives along in both lanes for a while. Since he’s more in the left lane than the right, I signal and move to pass him on the right. Now Mr. Idiot’s brain swings into full action: he moves into the right lane in front of me – without signaling – and cuts me off. I hit the brakes, signal left and move back into the left lane to try passing him – again. This time Mr. Idiot decides to stay in his lane and carry on.

At the next light, I look over at Mr. Idiot, curious as to his gender and wondering if he might make some apologetic gesture. Yes, he did gesture, but not apologetically. Clearly Mr. Idiot thought that someone had done something wrong, and that someone was ME.

There’s just so much wrong with this. I was tempted to follow Mr. Idiot and ask him what he thought just happened. Perhaps he knows some quirk of the law with which I’m unfamiliar. But I didn’t, and now I’ll never know.

Sounds pretty bad doesn’t it? Well, in Victoria, BC, this is an everyday occurrence. Several times a day, in fact. Which is why I’ve given up completely. Soon I’ll be moving much closer to work, so that I won’t have to deal with people like Mr. Idiot on a daily basis. What a relief!

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Can you see me now?

I’m always amazed when I see someone driving with fogged-up windows. Driving is dangerous enough when you can see, don’t you think? I wonder if their heater works? Do they have several large dogs in the car? I’ll never know.

This happens much more often when it’s raining. When it rains, people roll up their windows (fair enough). The air inside the car becomes warmer than outside because there are warm bodies inside, and the already humid air gets even wetter. Foggy windows are the result.

How can we avoid this? Turn on your fan. It may seem like common sense, but the fact that I see people driving around in a fog seems to argue otherwise. Possibly these people simply aren’t familiar with their vehicle’s heating system. Perhaps they don’t realize that you can turn on the fan without turning up the heat. Can it be that they don’t even notice the problem?

I never have this problem. That’s because I leave my fan running on low all the time. When it’s raining, I make sure to shoot the air onto the windshield by turning on “defrost” mode. Keeping the air moving like this eliminates foggy windows. Simple, huh?

Oh, and you know that “recirculate” button/knob? Make sure that stays off. Recirculating the air will fog up your windows quicker than you can say, “Was that a red light?” You may not be familiar with this control as it’s often labeled obscurely. Look for a two position switch: one position shows an arrow coming into the car and the other shows air moving around in circles inside the car. You want the position where air comes into the car. The other position is only useful if it’s really cold outside and you want to warm up the air inside the car quickly. Just remember to switch it back when you start driving.

Okay, so I hear complaints from people who wear contacts: “Leaving the fan on all the time dries out my eyes!” Sorry, I haven’t got an answer for that.

Can you see me now? Read More »