Seriously! Just cut it out.
There have been a lot of words expended on how much worse drivers have gotten since the pandemic started.
I’m going to expend a few more.
Not that I expect it to make a difference on the roads, but it’ll make me feel slightly better. Not as much as the start of professional baseball–first preseason games are Friday, World Baseball Classic starts March 8, MLB season begins March 30–but I’ll take what I can get.
Because drivers are really getting horrible out there. In the past week, I’ve seen:
- Three drivers run red lights. I’m not talking about stretching the yellow past the point where it snaps. No, two of them were outright “blow through the intersection without even slowing down” and the third was a “stop, wait a couple of seconds, then proceed straight ahead”.
- One case of a driver going straight ahead from a left turn lane (after flooring the accelerator to be the first through the green light, ahead of the drivers in the two adjoining non-turn lanes).
- One driver turning right from the left turn lane. Fortunately, that was a one-lane-plus-turn-lane street and nobody was going straight.
- One driver cutting across four freeway lanes into the exit lane, then apparently changing their mind and cutting back across to the express lane.
And then there are the innumerable drivers speeding. Not the traditional “five miles over the limit” speeding. The current standard seems to be to do forty where the limit is thirty, fifty where it’s thirty-five or forty, and a minimum of fifteen over the limit–whatever the limit is–on the freeway. Even more when it’s raining, presumably because there are fewer cars on the road to get in the way.
Lane markings have become purely advisory, and fewer and fewer drivers are taking their advice. Swing wide on turns? Sure, go ahead: it reduces your chances of running off the road when you take a thirty mph turn at forty-five. Weave back and forth from one side of the road to the other? Absolutely: it wouldn’t do to let anybody pass you–it might force you to slow down.
Turn signals? Nobody uses those. If you can’t guess what the driver in front of you intends, you shouldn’t be driving.
Why has it gotten so dangerous out there? Most of the pontifications I’ve seen on the subject say it’s all because of the COVID lockdown: fewer drivers on the road and lower levels of law enforcement leading to an “I can get away with anything these days.” And it’s probably true, at least to an extent.
But logically, if that was all there was to it, now that traffic is more or less back to pre-pandemic levels, shouldn’t drivers be getting more cautious? Or at least, not getting any worse?
It certainly doesn’t seem that way. The stoplight behavior I noted up there is new. Yes, there have always been red light runners. But they’ve been rare enough that, at least around here, one could go weeks or months without seeing it happen. Misuse of the turn lanes as passing lanes isn’t new, but that also used to be rare, even as recently as mid-2022.
So what do we do about it?
I’m forced to admit that execution seems a bit excessive.
Handing out driver access passes to local race tracks might help by giving drivers a chance to work out their unsafe impulses in a controlled environment. But how do we get them to the track safely? Besides, how to we give them the passes? If we had enough traffic enforcement going on to distribute meaningful numbers of race track passes, they could simply enforce the traffic laws with the traditional tickets, fines, and license suspensions.
What if we go back to a full lockdown? Not only would it minimize the number of potential innocent victims of their idiocy, but we might actually knock out COVID once and for all.
Nah, too much to hope for.