Friday, 25 February 2011

Slow the %$^& down.

I am decidedly the queen of lost causes. I haven't met an underdog I didn't like. I have adopted traffic safety (specifically driving the speed limit) as a pet project but find I am usually met with apathy.  It seems like an insignificant thing to most people. An ideology that will only inconvenience them and offer no benefit. But as I see it, it is the one thing you do almost daily that could save a life. It is something you do daily that can make a statement about how you feel about your community without costing you a thing; it says 'I am PART of this community' not just passing through it. I have submitted this letter twice to my community league paper but it hasn't been published. I think they feel it is too harsh, too abrasive. That may be true, "but I'm not wrong" (to quote Bill Maher). Here's the letter. Next time I'll write about something mindless and not give anyone shit ..................... maybe.

Everybody thinks they're a good person. Everybody suffers from a disconnect between who they think they are, and who they really are. We're human, but we can do better.

This past Spring I attended the Urban Traffic Safety Conference Community Forum with a lovely woman from the Community League. It was an interesting evening with 3 speakers. First, Melissa Wandall, a woman who lost her husband to a red light runner who had repeatedly been charged with the offense. Then, Tom Vanderbuilt, who studies how we drive and what it says about us. And lastly, David Engwicht an Australian artist who says that it's our relationship with roads that causes us to feel cars own them instead of people. The theme that ran through all their presentations can be boiled down to the simple notion that who we think we are, usually isn't who we act like while driving our cars. We are behaving badly out there but we don't think it says anything about us.

When a lazy parent parks in a marked crosswalk zone, making it dangerously difficult for motorists to see kids in the crosswalk, that says something. When a rushed driver speeds through a pedestrian rich neighbourhood simply to shave a minute off their drive home, that says something. When a rude driver tailgates another on Riverbend road trying to bully them into doing over the posted 50 Km/hr limit, that says something. When my Benz driving neighbour, drives nicely behind me on our street but then aggressively speeds past me, cutting me off to get ahead of me once we reach Riverbend road, that says 2 things about him really, but I'll leave the one for a future article. The thing is, we feel anonymous when we drive, like we can drive how we want and it doesn't interfere with our 'niceness' once we get out of the driver's seat. Perhaps we feel entitled, we work hard or drive a status car or are frustrated. Surely one of those reasons gives us permission to speed or drive aggressively or rudely because the rest of the time we're nice; we're good people.

Of course when there is an accident, perhaps a tragedy, we still want to be the 'good guy'. However, I can guarantee no one will ever say "It's ok you hit us while driving 70 in a 50 zone, you're obviously very important and very nice". It's just not going to happen, and deep down we all know it. Endangering others for your own convenience makes you a bad person even if nothing bad happens. Speed limits and traffic laws are there for the safety and security of everyone. We can all do better. We can all reconnect.


  1. Well said! I've also noticed how normally caring and patient people become aggressive behind the wheel, as if they lose all self-control once on the road. It is baffling really.

  2. Agreed! Plus, why do I feel bad when I'm going the speed limit & someone is on my a*# - like I'M the one doing something wrong!