I like to think that I’m normally a reasonably calm and patient person. I’ll take a lot crap before I blow my cool, but I confess that I’m one of those drivers who is very easily irritated by what I witness happening on the roads. When I get behind the wheel of a car, my tolerance level for stupid, mean-spirited, and inconsiderate drivers drops to zero. I wish I had a super-power to generously exact retribution where necessary.
I know that Toronto isn’t the only place in the world where there are bad drivers, aggressive behaviour or outright civil disobedience on the roadways – and where there are too many cars and not enough drivers exercising courtesy and common sense, things will get tense.
With road maintenance season ramping up – combined with scores of cyclists now hitting the roads – all forms of road rage are about to get much worse.
This is my wish list of behaviour changes I’d like to see out on our roads:
1) leave the aggressive driving to gaming and movies. Excessive speeds, weaving in and out of traffic, aggressive tail-gating, running red lights and using ramps, shoulders and centre lanes to get ahead in slow traffic are all behaviours that are reckless and stupid.
You are not the centre of the universe. No one is deliberately trying to make you late for work, miss your appointment, or mash your mellow. Aggressive driving might get you to where you are going 5 minutes faster, but it is an accident waiting to happen – yes, even to you.
The delays and traffic backlog caused by road construction are frustrating and on a bad day, can make me want to cry, but the aggressive and self-absorbed behaviour exhibited by some motorists in these trying conditions makes my blood boil. I’m also pretty sure these are the same people who cause accidents that – you guessed it – cause more delays and traffic backlogs.
2) I think we all agree that alcohol and driving don’t go together. It is both illegal and socially unacceptable.
So should all forms of distracted driving. If it is not illegal where you live, to talk on the phone without a hands-free device, or text while driving, then it should be. Distracted drivers -at best – are annoying as they weave erradically in their lane, or drive excessively slow – often in the passing lane. At worst, distracted driving gets people killed.
To the woman who cut me off last week making a sudden U-turn while she chatted on the phone – shame on you!
3) cyclists are probably moving a lot faster than you think they are. Don’t try to race them to the intersection or driveway where you need to make that turn. Be aware that a cyclist having to make a sudden stop becomes a human projectile. The end result is never pretty and will be traumatic for everyone involved.
Two years ago on a country road, Husband suffered 9 broken ribs, 5 cracked spinal crests, a cracked shoulder blade and a bruised kidney when a driver cut him off to make a right hand turn. Husband was travelling at 33 km / hour. That might not seem fast to you secure in your car surrounded by a ton of metal, but on a road bike with thin racing tires – it is.
4) give cyclists a wide berth. The faster you are moving and the bigger your vehicle, the greater the space you need to leave between you and the cyclist as you overtake them. If there is oncoming traffic and you can’t move over safely, please slow down!
The draft you create as you pass a cyclist can make their bike unstable. Some dim-bulbs think it’s funny to buzz close to cyclists as they speed by to watch the reaction as the cyclist fights to keep control of their bike. I’m not making this up.
It is NOT funny. Yes – I know there are some bad, inconsiderate cyclists on the road. That is never an excuse for dangerous behaviour.
5) This summer, my oldest son and 2 of his friends will be participating in the 6 day / 600 km Friends For Life Bike Rally from Toronto to Montreal in support of the Toronto Aids Foundation. That means I now have 3 more people I care deeply about who are on the roads cycling.
My worry-bucket is overflowing. I’ve already used up a lot of heart beats in this life and no one should ever have to get one of ‘those’ phone calls.
Be respectful to everyone else out there on the road – whether you think they deserve your courtesy or not. Their lives – and yours – might depend on it.