Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How Dumb Do You Have To Be To Drive A Car?

We were getting ready for bed last night when the call came in. MVA. Single vehicle MVA. You’d be surprised how many of those we get in this area, being on the intersection of two secondary highways. It’s the ‘secondary’ bit that makes the difference – people always think they can speed and won’t get caught.

These guys…barreling along the road when a deer runs out in front of them. Hit the brakes and spun the wheel. NOT a good idea. Once you hit the brakes, you don’t have as much control over the vehicle. Yanking on the wheel? Inviting the vehicle to decide where it wants to go.

This one chose the ditch, in a roll. Car with a canvas roof, which was ripped right off as the vehicle spun, not around but over.

One of the guys inside said he felt the dirt on his head when it happened. The other guy was ejected.

You hear about an accident like that, and it’s easy enough to understand how it happens. You’re tearing along the highway after dark. All of a sudden an animal runs out in front of you. Not everybody reacts with calm, calculated logic. Hitting the brakes is the obvious thing to do. A lot of people don’t realize pulling hard on the wheel when you’ve hit the brakes can be a bad combination. The two guys in that car? They’re lucky to both be alive.

And then there are people who’re just stupid. Surely you’ve heard by now, about the woman who decided to give her dog driving lessons.

I mean, some people are stupid, but this really takes the cake. Should anyone who actually thinks it’s okay to give their dog driving lessons be allowed to have a license themselves? Doesn’t the very act of putting your dog behind the wheel demonstrate your two random brain cells don’t connect often? I mean, I’m sorry. I love dogs. But thinking one has the intelligence needed to drive?

It can be really easy to identify idiots, once they’re behind the wheel of a car. The only problem is, they often have a sufficiently large vehicle that can be used to kill people.

The other day, author Eileen Cook mentioned the road trip relationship test on her blog. I had to smile. On our third date Kevin and I did a full day trip, out of the city. But it was about a month later, when we drove to Vancouver to visit my friends that a whole new side of his shiny personality emerged.

His pissed off at how stupid people drive personality. What were some of those golden lines? If I were that old I’d drive everywhere fast because I’d be afraid of dying en route. I know, I know, but it is kind of funny. It’s not getting any greener! Who hasn’t wanted to shout that at somebody who’s sitting there at a green light, staring off into space? Then they clue in, just in time to get through the light themselves and keep everyone else waiting.

And you don’t want to hear either of us talk about bicyclists in the downtown core. Really. I’ll make enemies. Oh, come on. Go green and all that, but get a brain while you’re at it! What burns me about these bike couriers is that they don’t follow any rules of the road. They’re a car when it suits them, a pedestrian when it’s to their advantage, and go completely rogue when they feel like it. They have no rules.

Kevin got hit by a bicyclist once. Guy whipped into a parking lot and hit the front of Kevin’s car. And you know what? The bicyclist tried to blame Kevin for hitting him, but witnesses came forward and the bicyclist got charged.

I was hit by a bicyclist once myself. I was running up a footpath at night, to my house. It was dark, and this was British Columbia, on the coast, so when I say it was dark I mean BC pacific dark, not Alberta semi-dark. I didn’t see the bicyclist whipping down (no bike light) until it was almost too late. We both had a split second to make a decision – I moved right, he moved left. Since we were heading in opposite directions, that means he ran right into me. I was lucky enough that my head hit the grass and I was still knocked unconscious.

I’ve also been hit by a car while riding a bicycle. I’m hopelessly accident-prone, although that incident wasn’t my fault either. I was on the side of the road, which was the law. By law I was entitled to one full lane in passing – Ontario in the 70s. This guy, it was his 80th birthday and he’d just gone to town to pick up a cake and thought he’d try to get by with his boat anyway, despite the oncoming traffic. He hit me. I don’t remember what I hit in the process – something after flipping through the air, because I had to have stitches in my head.

And I’ve already shared the story about our accident in Tunisia.

So, I’ve had my share of accidents on vehicles, or with vehicles. And you know, I think that’s what it is that brings out so much rage for people when they’re driving, when they see people doing stupid things.

It’s an anger sometimes born of fear.

Everyone I knew was chomping at the bit, anxious to get their license when they turned 16. I didn’t get my license until I was almost 20. Oh, I had my learner’s when I was 16 and I even drove a few times, but I was always keenly aware of the fact that I had the power in my hands to take lives. I’ve always had a heightened sense of responsibility that way. I could never just take on that privilege with the casual attitude almost everyone else did, like driving was their entitlement.

I know there are people who aren’t going to like me for saying it, but that’s one of the things that irks me about some drivers with the ‘baby on board’ signs in the back. It shouldn’t matter. People shouldn’t ever need to be told to treat any vehicle on the road any differently, because everyone should be driving with due care and attention… Right? And I’ve got to say that I think this woman got off lightly. I think they should have charged her for child endangerment as well, but I’m not going to get started or this will be a full-blown rant. But for crying out loud, if you’re in an accident what do you think will happen? Your baby is going to go flying out the window. Don’t people think?

One of the things I had to look up and correct in Suspicious Circumstances had to do with road laws. Well, I wrote the book originally two years ago. Things can change. And one thing I needed to know was if it was legal to drive and talk on a cell phone. What a pain. I’m even trying to be law-abiding in fiction.

There’s no doubt in my mind I could go on and on about the stupid things I’ve seen people do while driving, but maybe you guys have some stories.

And if blogger plays nice today (wow, has it been grumpy this past week – I’ve had trouble commenting everywhere) you can share them with me. Come on, I’m in the home stretch on these edits. I could use smiles and distractions.


Julia Buckley said...

Great post, Sandra. Did the biker who hit you stay and help?

And here's my question about drivers on cell phones. I see them at 7 30 in the morning on my way to work, and I think, "Who are they all talking to? I don't WANT to talk to anyone that early in the morning, and I can't imagine needing to make a phone call when the day has just begun. Why are people so obsessed with calling other people that they risk killing the folks on the road in front of them?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, the biker stayed and bought me a cookie and everything. I'm not joking, actually. I knew the guy.

At 7:30 I don't want to talk to anyone either!

Geesh, is blogger finally permitting comments? I've tried a few places this morning and it's been an exercise in frustration!

DesLily said...

oh pahleeze! do not get me started on cell phones! Hands free or not.. your mind is NOT on driving while talking on the phone!!

(hmmm, the dog learning how to drive certainly wouldn't be on one.. so maybe he would be the better driver! heh.. ok j/k!)

Sandra Ruttan said...

The dog might be better, DesLily - you have a point!

I've seen it all - eating cereal, doing the make-up. Look other commuters - no hands!

angie said...

Had to laugh at the running commentary re. other drivers. I was a fairly calm and polite driver until I moved to Chicago. The only way I could cope with driving there was to develop a verbal tic - I would calmly and continuously curse each and every bad driver that came close to hitting me. there were several.

I still drive my hubby crazy with my comments - "it's the pedal on the RIGHT, asshole," and "where'd you get your driver's liscence? A gumball machine?" and the less interesting, but still heartfelt "get out of the way, fucker!" Hubby has pointed out that while he can hear me, the object of my frustration & derision cannot. He keeps threatening to get a bull horn & speakers mounted on the truck for my little outbursts.

s.w. vaughn said...

Stupid drivers piss me off.

A half-mile down the street from me, there is a cross by the side of the road, marking the spot where 17-year-old Lindsey Schwab (my brother's sister-in-law) was working with her high school ROTC cleaning roadside debris when a car struck and killed her almost instantly.

The car was driven by a doctor, who had looked away from the road to play with his radio. He drifted off the edge and killed Lindsey. And what happened to the doctor?

Not a goddamned thing. He's still out there driving around. Probably still playing with his radio.

I won't even discuss the fact that our county has one of the highest DWI rates in the country.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Angie, you'd appreciate the more radical comments Kevin makes that were too extreme to post on my blog!

SW, what a tragic story. Aren't there laws, vehicular homicide? There was a really freak accident here a few years ago, someone went through an intersection, sailed over the railing and hit a bank. Killed a woman inside. There were no charges - I believe because it was established the brakes were faulty. But if you have an accident you can still be charged. Damn, the way they let these people off for DUIs enrages me. "I was drunk so it's not my fault" - circular logic that creates a loophole?

I can't believe they let that guy off. That's horrid.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Angie, I makes such comments all the time. :)

Has anyone noticed that people wearing hats or caps inside the car are always piss poor drivers? Does it get too warm for those two random brain cells?

s.w. vaughn said...

The asshole's lawyer got him off because Lindsey had a hearing deficiency, and he (the doctor) insisted she was in the road, despite the other members of the ROTC group testifying that she was on the shoulder.

She wasn't stupid. She was seventeen, and they were working on the shoulder of a 55-mph truck route. She wasn't in the road. This is also small-town mentality at work. This man is "important to the community." Gah.

Excuse me for ranting twice today. In case you can't tell, I'm still a wee bit ticked at this guy. :-)

Bill Cameron said...

Wait. I often have a hat on inside the car.

Oh, double-wait. I'm not a very good driver. At least, my wife doesn't think so. She drives us everywhere. I don't even ask anymore. Curiously enough, many years ago I was a truck driver in the Army. Six years doing long-haul driving, often with some serious ordnance on the trailer. I had the best safety record in my battalion -- never an accident. Try to tell that to my wife though.

Speaking of bikes, I'm a biker when I can, and live in a very bike-friendly city. I think Bicycling magazine even called Portland the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. recently. We have all these very well-marked bike routes. With that in mind, you'd think we had some of the best bikers around. And, hell, for all I know we do. What I also know is that when I do have to drive, the bikers make me crazy.

For example, SE Division Street is narrow and busy, with cars parks on both sides of the street from 52nd all the way down to 12th. A block south, SE Clinton Street runs parallel, is wide, has speed bumps to discourage car traffic, and is a designate Bike Route. One block south. Parallel for FIFTY FREAKING BLOCKS. So why the hell do all the bikers ride down Division, whipping in and out of traffic, zipping from behind the parked cars? C'mon, people, you have a BIKE ROUTE ONE BLOCK AWAY. I know, I use that bike route, on my bike, all the time.

Yes, this is an item of some passion for me.

Bikers, I sometimes think, are their own worst enemies. Yes, bikers have the same right to the road as everyone else, but use some sense about it. When you're on your bike, you're smaller, less visible, and far more crunchable. Be safe, be smart. Use the Bike Routes when you have them. Sure, zip up to the main drag as you near your destination, but don't live there. That Fed Ex ahead will hide you until it turns, and if you're wobbling back and forth I assure you my bumper is harder than your tukas!

(Breathe, Bill, breathe!)

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL Gabriele! There's a theory!

SW, you rant away. It's a horrid story, I can't imagine how it must be for the family. Important to the community. You know, the corruption in my book seems a whole lot more believable just reading that. Unreal.

Bill, army is different. You have big freaking vehicles and everyone gets out of your way. :) Seriously, Kevin knows all about that. And on that bike path thing? So with you! If I have a choice for a bike path, I'm on it. It's dangerous and you aren't protected. That's what bike paths are for! Geez. I personally think bicyclists should have to have a license to bike in downtown city areas. And insurance. I'm sorry, but I've seen too many bicyclists cause accidents. I know there are horrid drivers too, but just because you go green doesn't mean you leave your brain at home either.

James Goodman said...

When I was living in New Mexico. There was an older gentlemen that was going to the pharmacy to pick up some meds. He must have forgot what he was doing because when he pulled into the parking slot in front of the store, he never stopped. Nope, he crashed right the front of the store without even once hitting his brakes. I'm not sure if he got his prespcription filled though...

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, I think it was obvious. He wanted drive-through pharmacy service.

JamesO said...

I said I was a bloody idiot, Sandra. You didn't have to rub it in;}#

Those 'Baby on Board' stickers are just boasting - guys driving around saying 'look at me, I've got lead in my pencil' - it's a sort of compensation for having to drive a people carrier that smells of dirty nappies and stale wee inside.

As for bikers, I have some (but not much) sympathy for them. I used to commute by bike when I worked in Edinburgh, and the bike lanes were a joke. Usually they had cars parked in them, and they'd just end at random points, forcing you to rejoin the traffic.

I did run into a pedestrian once, too, but only because she stepped out into the road from behind a parked bus straight into my path. Pride was the only thing damaged that time, so we were both lucky.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, I'm sorry James. Did I forget to link to you? :)

It really does depend on the city, I suppose. And where you live, I suppose shepherds have the right of way?

Anonymous said...

What kind of stupid do you have to be to let your dog steer a car anyway? That's the great part of that story, which made me laugh hysterically, by the way. I have no room to complain about other people's driving though, because while I'm not a bad driver, when I'm behind the wheel, my only focus is getting where I need to go and woe is you if you impede my progress. You won't know it, but I will have cursed you, your ancestors and your progeny by the time I'm done. And I always have really loud music playing, that way I stay nice and hyper.

My husband drives veeerrryyy sloooowwwlyyy. I usually drive us places. My heart can't take his pace. norby

Unknown said...

Oh don't even get me started on bad drivers. I hate cell phones: people in their cars yacking, people in the stores yacking, in restaurants yacking. What is so important they can't wait until they are not in a car or at home or at work? And yes I've nearly been run off the road by someone on a cell phone. They decided to change lanes and never bothered to look since they were too busy yacking on the phone.

Then one time a while back my husband and I were driving home from work. I was asleep. When I woke up, after a huge crashing sound, our car was driving the wrong way on the highway. Someone had cut off another driver and instead of putting on his breaks he pulled into the next lane. Unfortunately we were in the other lane. Luckily only the cars were hurt.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Norby, I did laugh. But only because it happened far, far away! "I will have cursed you, your ancestors and your progeny" - HA!

Andrea, my word, what a horrid accident. People who don't look before they change lanes.

I can defend cell phones on some occasions. They come in handy when you're in an accident and need to phone for help. Or when you're at a conference and trying to find someone. :)

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Sandra, working in a 911 center... I can tell you cell phones are the bane of my existance. It kills me when people actually call about a car accident and then say, "Well, I saw an officer out with it. I just wanted to make sure you knew about it." We license people to drive... I vote we license phone usage, too!

Anonymous said...

I so share your rage Sandra. I'm still recovering from reading those two news stories. Fuck me. Stupid fuckwits. My husband was just telling me about a bicycle driving hitting a 73 year old man and killing him. The bicyclist only got a $250 fine.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Bill, as though we needed more proof of stupidity!

Amra, that's unbelievable. A small fine? Wow.

mai wen said...

Drat, I'm one of those stupid bicyclists that ran into a car. Okay, to be fair, I was around 10-yrs-old at time. Fine, the car was parked. Yes, my cheek swelled up twice it's original size.

People are insane with their driving. I truly don't understand. The other day I was leaving work early to go out of town, so there was very light traffic on the high ways. I was in the fast lane going about ten over, which I think was reasonable. And here comes a car zipping into the middle lane, which had a car in it slightly behind me, and then it zipped behind me, then going Extremely fast zipped into the median between the fast lane and a Concrete wall separating the two sides of the high way! The car was going at least 85mph as it raced by me and then zipped in front of me excelerating even more! Only moments after the car cut in front of me the concrete wall cut inwards sharply, cutting the median in half. Had we'd been just a little bit further up, that car would have totally had to cut into the fast lane to avoid the concrete wall. Seriously, what the heck? It could have easily passed me if it'd just been patient enough. I'd never seen anything like it, I literally thought I'd see a police car chasing after the car, it was so movie-ish. Really, was that person in That much of a hurry to endanger My life too???

Grrr, can definitely understand your frustration!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Mai Wen, I hit a car when I was riding my bike too. He pulled out in front of me. I think I was 16.

I was also hit by a drunk driver. I'm convinced I've had my three bike vs auto accidents that I'm allotted for, and next time I'm on a bike that collides with a car, I'm toast.

Anonymous said...

You gave me an interesting idea. Thanks,Steve @Car Tips