No signalling, no shoulder checking, tailgating, butting into traffic — no wonder road rage has become a social disease on our highways and byways.
I once interviewed a psychiatrist for his take on the road rage issue. Using Victoria as an example, he said it takes the same amount of time to reach a crosstown destination, whether a driver obeys the speed limit or exceeds it by 10 km/h. The speeder manages to hit the red lights quicker. By the time the light turns green, the two cars are level.
Aside from obeying the speed limit, traffic problems could be largely alleviated if we allowed a bit more time before stepping behind the wheel, and corrected lazy driving habits.
I can’t count the number of times I have been cut off, or noticed drivers who have failed to signal, or shoulder check, before making a turn or switching lanes.
I regularly drive along First Avenue in Courtenay. More often than not, a driver approaching from a side street will ignore a stop sign and jump out in front of me. If that’s not bad enough, the driver invariably does not accelerate. That leaves two choices: brake or pass the car. The former, of course, is the best choice.
Another pet peeve is individuals who feel inclined to engage in conversation from the middle of the road. Instead of pulling over, they stick their head out the driver side window to chat with someone to their left. Or, they lean across the seat and chat through the passenger side of their car. Then they look at me with a quizzical expression as I honk the horn.
One day, just after turning right at the intersection of Cumberland Road and Fitzgerald, I had to brake because a driver had stopped to chat with a gentleman standing on the island in the middle of the busy road. I honked, which drew the aforementioned quizzical expression from the pedestrian, who seemed oblivious to the fact that he was in the process of causing a traffic jam, increasing the likelihood of an accident, and contributing to road rage.
Funny thing about horns — we use them, and people get offended. Some want to fight about it. But if we don’t use them, we can be slapped with a traffic citation: ‘Failure to use horn.’
Does your head hurt yet?
I have yet to mention distracted driving, be it slapping on makeup or firing off an unimportant text message. It seems some drivers won’t get it until something serious happens. Maybe they rear-end a vehicle while chatting with their honey on their cell phone. Worse yet, they hit a pedestrian. According to government, distracted driving is the second-highest cause of fatalities on B.C. roads.
Naturally, there are consequences. Motorists caught chatting on cellphones and other electronic devices can be fined $167 and receive three demerit points.
More contentious is mandatory medical exams for drivers on the far side of 80. These may be costly and time-consuming (and discriminatory in the eyes of some), but if RoadSafetyBC stats are correct (drivers 80 and older are responsible for almost 70 per cent of the crashes in which they are involved), then the exams are necessary.
Like I said, paying attention is the best defence against traffic accidents and road rage. And it’s not just obeying the rules of the road. If we are truly paying attention, we are keeping our eyes peeled 50 or 100 yards to the front, and using our peripheral vision to prevent accidents from the sides.
Another defence is to regularly check our side and rearview windows. It’s amazing how vehicles and bicycles can seemingly appear out of nowhere.
So drop that phone, grip the wheel and don’t be afraid to give a little tap on the horn if you notice a daydreaming driver. You might be saving a life.
Scott Stanfield is a reporter at the Comox Valley Record