Monday, 14 March 2016

Can Edmonton DRIVE change? ** Caution I swear a lot in this one **

Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time on traffic safety. I have joined committees, written articles, participated and promoted the now defunct ‘Edmonton Pace Car’ project. I’ve bitched, whined, moaned, and shouted. I’ve attended conferences. I’ve flipped the bird (or many thousands of birds). I’ve donned a dayglow orange vest and attempted to be part of a safety patrol. I’ve lost my shit and all my composure and retired the dayglow orange vest because I’m really not nice enough or mature enough to do safety patrol. And I’ve given up completely on the people of Edmonton to do what’s right.

Edmonton. I have lost faith in you. Utterly. Completely. Entirely. But I want to have faith in you again.

Somehow I believe our cars have made it ok to let our hearts go cold and unfeeling as those prisons of steel and glass we encase ourselves in to get around. Each and every day thousands of perfectly nice Edmontonians climb into their vehicles and become assholes. Yeah I said it. There are thousands of people each day who climb into their car and become “drivers” …. Mindless, selfish, aggressive, disobedient, rude, uncaring “drivers”. There might as well be a cactus behind the wheel for they are just as prickish and incapable of humanity. And, the thing is, it’s possible to choose to be otherwise. We can choose to retain our humanity behind the wheel and it will only cost us a few minutes each day.

Before you let fly the barrage of impotent, and frankly stupid, excuses for terrible behaviour behind the wheel please peruse the list of rationale retorts I have provided below.

1.       Yo, Ghandi, even if you don’t “like” the speed on a given road or feel it’s “too slow” it’s still the law. If you feel strongly about it, work to have it changed. Speeding down said road isn’t a noble act of civil disobedience. You’re not MLK just yet heavy foot. But before making the complaint to get that 50 zone changed to 60, maybe take a good look at the roadway in question. Are there lots of crosswalks? Are they light controlled? Are there parks, schools, or services for children or elderly in the vicinity? Is it a long, largely uninterrupted stretch of road that people can accidentally pick up too much speed on? Maybe “I just feel like I want to go faster” isn’t actually a good enough reason. Before you plan the sit-in, please ask yourself if you could just give 3 extra minutes to the cause of ‘greater human safety’ and just slow down the teeniest bit?

2.       Hey, Schumacher, that’s super cool and all that your kick ass driving skills are such that you can do Mach 10 down that road and still stop for every crosswalk, and see every runaway soccer ball, and dodge every bicycle. You must feel so proud. If you’re done stroking yourself, I’d like to point out that not every driver is of your calibre. Some drivers may be just new. Some drivers may be a little older and their reflexes not what they once were. Some drivers may be a little more nervous of bad weather, or unfamiliar with our roads, or experiencing high traffic volume for the first time. I would never advocate for anyone unfit to drive to be driving, but let’s just say not every driver possesses your god like reaction times and infallible decision making. For us mere mortals, things happen very fast even when we are our best most alert selves. And maybe, and I’m just thinking out loud, just maybe not everyone is such an arrogant blowhard and actually have a sense of their own human limitations. Maybe speed limits are not actually there to inconvenience YOU but to set a reasonable, common sense standard to hopefully ensure that PEOPLE get where they are going safely?

3.       Seriously, Burt, I GET it already. You’re in a rush. But this isn’t Cannon Ball run and it wasn’t yesterday or the day before either. Also, it still won’t be tomorrow so stop trying to explain why you’re riding my back bumper like a dry humping Shih Tzu. Unless you have a human heart in a cooler and need to get it to the hospital for transplant, you don’t need to go faster than traffic is flowing. Get off my ass. I give no shits for your opinion on the matter and trying to bully me into going faster than the speed limit is just that, it’s bullying. It’s not a nice way to be. And people who do it, statistically do it often. I know you think you can handle it, yet, year after year in Alberta, the cause of about 1/3 of casualty collisions is reported as “following too closely”. Your impatience could kill someone. That kind of impatience often does kill someone. Back off, turn up the tunes, enjoy the ride or learn to take a bus. YOU arriving 3 minutes sooner than everyone else doesn’t win you anything.

4.       What’s that you say Hermann Maier? “I’ll just go around you, and around the next guy, and the next too, until I slalom my way to certain victory!” Erm, fine dude, except this isn’t the friggin’ Super G and your pathologically frequent lane changes are a menace. Each time you change lanes you take a risk. You make a snap judgement at full speed (or maybe even above speed for the road way) and the whole process is on you. Changing lanes 9 million times in a 15-minute commute to end up at work 2 ½ minutes earlier makes you a speculative plunger, not a high roller. And an asshole by anyone’s definition, because you’re not just betting your own safety or property. Apparently human error is responsible for at least 90% of all accidents (I googled it). Here’s just one article. This stat doesn’t say much for us human beings in this department does it. This ain’t the Super G ………. It’s more like Roller Derby, and most of you just aren’t ready to change your name to Iron Maven. Pick a lane, handle your shit, the view ain’t any better in front of me than behind me. Driving isn’t a shell game, a race, or a derby. You can’t pick the fastest lane, and you can’t keep infinitely playing the odds and winning ……….. and I’d bet YOUR life on that, but not mine, so PLEASE slow down.

5.       Oi Vey Jordy. I know you have those amazing 22nd century visor glasses and all, but can you really see through that frosted up windshield and that foot of snow on your hood blowing a blizzard into the windshield as you drive? Let’s take a moment to ensure our vehicles are ready for driving, BEFORE fucking driving. Buy a windshield scraper, and a brush. Use them. I wasn’t aware that needed to be said, but there you go.

6.       YooHoo! Doc McSteamy? Doc McHottie? Doc McStuffins? Pardon me, but are you phoning in that heart transplant to the Mazankowski? Oh, no, you’re just talking to your Mom about your date last night, or to your friend about your other friend’s dry chicken dinner, or to your bud about the game? …………… GET OFF THE FUCKING PHONE!!!!!!!

7.       Oiy! Carnac the Magnificent! I love that when you peer into that crystal ball of yours it tells you that you will pass safely and those aren’t the droids you’re looking for ……. No, wait, no I don’t. I think you’re a defective asshole for thinking you can predict the future. When you blast past that kid on his bike and just “see” that he won’t skid or stop or veer …… you’re an asshole. He’s 10 and he needs you to anticipate his 10 ness. When you approach the lady in the crosswalk and time it just to pass behind her as she passes, without anticipating that she may trip, fall, stop, turn around, drop something, or that a person (you didn’t see) may cross into the space you are gunning for, then YOU are an asshole. Plan to stop. If they cross quickly and the crosswalk is clear then it’s your lucky day and go forth you fortuitous crumpet you. But plan to stop because you can’t predict the future and “I didn’t think your 8 year old, in the clearly marked crosswalk, was going to drop his soccer ball and stop” is not going to comfort any grieving Mother. In fact, say that, and I’d plan on sleeping with one eye open until the end of your days ………. I’ve been in several crosswalks where someone almost mowed down my kid, because they “timed it wrong” and those drivers better just be glad I don’t have lasers for eyes.

8.       For Pete's sake Han, this isn’t the Kessel run. No one gives a crap if you made it in 12 parsecs or 14. I shall repeat. No one gives a shit. Let’s call driving no faster than the posted limit on main roads and even slower on side roads the ‘handshake’ deal among those who care about others. It’s the unwritten agreement between those who actually have hearts and feelings about others. For no other reason but that ……. They care. Refusing to keep that covenant does not make you a hero, or a rebel, or an outlaw …… it just makes you an asshole. If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, if you think of yourself as a nice person and then get behind the wheel of your car and act like an asshole, then you are not actually a nice person. Because behind the wheel of your car is where people actually get killed. Over 2000 people each year die, and over 160 000 are injured in Canada because of drivers …… and each one is arguably preventable.

9.       Oh Pinocchio! Jiminy can’t be in your pocket every second. My favourite (sarcasm font …. In bold Italics ….. and font size 72) excuse is “if it was such a problem then the police would stop me”. Ummmmmm, if you need your own private Police officer to follow you around every where and help you decide right from wrong then we have a pretty big problem. Can you imagine the court cases? “Your honour, I was unsure if stabbing that old lady and then placing her in my freezer while I went to cash the cheque for $11 dollars written to her grandson that I found in her purse was allowed. But no one showed up in a uniform to stop me, so it must have been ok.”  If you have a driver’s licence then you shouldn’t need anyone to tell you parking in a crosswalk is wrong, or speeding in a school zone is wrong, or failing to yield to pedestrians is wrong, or gunning down residential side roads to save 3 minutes is wrong, or tailgating is wrong, or any sort of behind-the-wheel-asshattery is wrong. If you need policing to drive courteously and well, then you shouldn’t be driving. It’s a privilege, not a right.

10       “Ummm Marie Antoinette wants you to eat cake because that’s how much she cares ….. you know, about the little people”. Look, self entitlement is ugly. And having an obtuse sense of privilege is down right disgusting. Knock it off. Edmonton seems to have an overabundance of people who believe their time is more valuable than everybody else’s. They get in their cars and expect the seas of traffic to part, parking spaces to materialize, other cars to move out of their way as they swerve dialing their phones or applying their mascara. They expect the royal treatment, but afford it to no one else, because no one else is deserving I guess, and because if EVERYONE drove like that it would be anarchy. Those who drive like they own the road can do so only because others have decided the roads belong to everyone. And it isn’t fair or right or OK. The psychology of entitlement is not encouraging. It’s a tough mindset to overcome but it is possible. A big part of recognizing entitlement is realizing that you don’t think rules apply to you ….. that somehow you are special. And each time put yourself ahead of others and it pays off, that reinforces your viewpoint. This is a scenario that perpetuates itself so beautifully when we drive. If you break the rules more than anyone else, then you get ahead, and it’s their fault for not being important enough or strong enough or brave enough to follow suit (or at least that’s the rationale they use to make it ok). It’s dangerous. If I stood in the middle of my street and fired a high power rifle down the road each morning, I would be unlikely to hit anything, but playing those odds knowing how dangerous it could be would make me a monster, wouldn’t it? Is the selfish and dangerous behaviour only bad when something bad happens, or is it always bad? I know how I answer that question, how do you? I guess how you answer it may say something about the person you really are or the person you should strive to become.

Roads belong to people, not drivers, and certainly not cars. People. If we could just put ourselves in that frame of mind, just think how much nicer our roads would be, how much safer, how much more pleasant, and how much nicer …… and truly only a tiny teeny bit slower.

I feel like I’ve been writing about this same subject for my whole life, and that I watched people get worse instead of better for my whole life. Edmonton, I’m about to give up on you. I’m about to vote Trump, and get truck balls, and drown some puppies …………. No, just kidding. I couldn’t be such an asshole ……….. wanna join me in not assholing? Please. Please join me in the “just don’t be an asshole” movement. There’s no prize. There’s no cookie. There’s just the hope of a city to be proud of.

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