Browse Tag: driving

I don’t brake for people.

Actually, I do brake for people. But a part of me wishes that I could prominently display that statement–‘I don’t brake for people’–on my windshield.

Before you get angry and accuse me of being insensitive, let me say that I have the utmost respect and patience for pedestrians. You walk to get where you need to go? More power to you. I’ve spent plenty of extended periods of time in cities where I got around by foot or by bike. What I DON’T have patience for is jaywalking.  As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the verb ‘jaywalk’ means ‘to cross a street carelessly or in an illegal manner so as to be endangered by traffic.’

The heavily used phrase ‘pedestrians have the right of way’ seems to have taken on a brand new meaning, something more along the lines of ‘pedestrians have the right to walk wherever they want, whenever they want.’ As a responsible driver, I find that attitude unfair. In most accidents involving cars and pedestrians, the cars are almost always heavily penalized and fully blamed. But the fact remains that there are many irresponsible walkers out there. You come across them every day.

A person may jaywalk for various reasons. Maybe the busstop is halfway down the block, so he or she might dart into the middle of the road (often into oncoming greenlit traffic) to avoid having to walk all the way down to the intersection to cross the street properly. On a cynical-yet-undeniable note, there are people who do it because they have an utter disregard for rules and order. I’m also convinced that many people do it simply because they’re mentally unstable.

Some of the worst jaywalking offenders I see today are teenagers. Not that it’s totally their fault–this laziness and disregard for surroundings is virtually state-sanctioned. During the hours-long school speed zones that many cities have put in place near high schools, groups of teenagers around South Florida stroll through the streets at a snail’s pace, mostly at every spot other than the actual intersection. While driving slowly through these 15-mile-an-hour zones, I watch these kids as they meet up in the middle of the street, high-five each other in the middle of the street, hug each other in the middle of the street, shuffle songs on their iPods in the middle of the street, and tell each other jokes in the middle of the street.

Are you freakin’ kidding me? What happened to ‘look right, look left, and cross the intersection at a brisk pace?’ I knew how to do that by first grade! Today, thanks to these speed zones, adolescents who are plenty old enough to know and respect road safety rules now feel entitled to stroll leisurely across the street, maybe even pausing once or twice to pull their pants up (not exaggerating–I’ve hit the brakes a few times to avoid hitting Mr. Pants on the Ground). I frequently see young jaywalkers outside school speed zones now.

The most unacceptable jaywalking stunt? People crossing outside a crosswalk while they have kids in tow, or while pushing strollers. Endangering children in this manner is reckless. The most obnoxious jaywalking stunt? Running through the street outside a crosswalk dressed in black clothing from head to toe. At night.

I use the term jay-cycling to describe cyclists who commit the same offenses. Cyclists are supposed to follow almost all the same rules as drivers, but we all have seen a bike (or twenty) ignore these rules. On my daily drive to and from home, at least twice a day, I come across a cyclist who rides out against incoming traffic into the middle of the road. Reckless riding also takes on new heights in pedestrian cities where many cyclists work as couriers. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to slam on the brakes while driving through Washington DC to avoid hitting courier cyclists who are weaving through cars in traffic. Accidents involving bikes and cars are highly unfortunate, but if a cyclist decides to run his stop sign or his red light because he feels the rules of the road don’t apply to him, is it fair to pour all the blame and seething hatred on the car?

I’m a calm and conscientious driver. I rarely speed because I don’t think the hassle of an auto accident or the risk of bodily injury is worth it. I acknowledge that there are a LOT of bad drivers out there–aggressive drivers with road rage, dense drivers who probably never should have been awarded a driver license in the first place, and your run-of-the-mill douchebag driver who thinks his commute is an audition for a role in the next Fast and Furious flick. But there are rules for cars, rules for pedestrians and rules for cyclists; we all have to do our part.

Pros of jaywalking? It saves you walking a few steps. Cons of jaywalking? It’s dangerous; it’s inconsiderate; and frankly it’s stupid. After all, when it comes down to Human Body versus Two-Ton Vehicle, the human body doesn’t stand a chance. Drivers ought to take every precaution at all times. And walkers ought to be aware that when they cross the street outside the crosswalk, they take a big risk. Crosswalks exist for a reason.

So if you’re thinking about jaywalking across the street when I’m driving…please don’t. It’s not that I think I have any more of a right to be on the road than you do–it’s just that as the driver behind the wheel of a 3,500-pound wad of metal, I carry the unique obligation of being responsible for both my own safety AND yours. Let’s play fair now–I don’t run my red lights, so don’t run yours. That is all.

Photo credits:

Top photo: “YEAH!” by Sugarfrizz

Middle photo: “Leisurely Jaywalking” by Rocksee

Bottom photo: “Jaywalking” by Edu Alarcon

On driving…


Car Wrecked

It’s not a figment of the imagination—drivers really have gotten worse over the years. Of course, the sheer number of drivers on the road these days has drastically increased over the last half-century, so bad vehicular behavior is bound to rear its ugly head quite often.

But while bad driving exists everywhere, it’s reached special heights in South Florida. Down here, the extent of personal interpretation of traffic law knows no bounds. And not only do we have our own badass American drivers, we also happily host badass drivers from all over the hemisphere who bring their own sense of surprise and adventure to I-95 and our local roads every day.

I decided to hammer out my own little list that can help you identify…

Ten Traffic Occurrences That Let You Know You’re on a South Florida Road:

1 – The driver in front of you sees that bright yellow ‘Yield’ sign, but to him, it’s just a way to bring in a nice sunny shade of yellow to an otherwise bland gray and black street, so he ignores it.

2 – The driver next to you is drifting into your lane. You take a look into the car to see who would dare do such a thing and realize that she’s drifting into your lane because she’s texting.

3 – You’re in the left lane and need to move over into the right lane. So you turn on your Right signal. As soon as you do this, the driver behind you at the 5:00 angle speeds up to make sure it’s impossible for you to move over.

4 – The driver across from you at the 4-way stop slows down and drives through the stop sign at 25-30 miles per hour because those red signs are actually just a formality letting drivers know that they ought to slow down.

5 – You’ve got a migraine, but the driver next to you wants to help you take your mind off it. So he turns the volume way up on his subwoofer. He figures the bass will rattle your car enough to soothingly vibrate your body. Screw the melody, the rest of the instrumentation, the lyrics and the voice—you only like that song cuz of the bass anyway.

6 – Watch the lady on your left at the next intersection; she’s worried about taking her turn too sharply, so before she turns left, she’s going to swing out to the right. Yes, right into your lane.

7 – You’re on a major road, and there’s a driver in front of you who’s going to be making a right turn. She’s going to decelerate to roughly, oh, zero miles per hour first, hence making a full stop on this busy street. If you pass her by on the left and turn towards her, you’ll see that she’s just one of our many 108-year-old Floridians who still manage to get their drivers licenses renewed every year!

8 – Move over to the right to avoid driving over that dead rooster in the middle of the road. This is very, very, very much a South Florida/Caribbean thing. Google, and you’ll understand.

9 – You’re trying to exit a parking lot, and there’s a beat-up two-door Honda Civic just next to you blocking your view. I know, I know—it’s totally annoying that you can’t see through the tinted-completely-black windows of that old car, but just think how exciting—it could be Johnny Depp or Lady Gaga right next to you! After all, only high profile celebrities tint their windows that dark!

10 – Yes, those two cars on the road in front of you are maneuvering rather erratically. Why, you ask? Butt out and give them their space—those drivers are old friends who haven’t seen each other in over a year, and they’re catching up on old times.

Got some more of your own to add to this list? Please feel free to comment below!