Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday June 3, 2019.
The distance between my car and the one that swerved out of the lineup of cars waiting at a stop sign became very small, very fast. The driver had likely waited for a while (like everyone else in that long lineup waiting to turn right on 10th Ave. from Lorne St.) but his patience expired and he opted to break the line and turn left into incoming traffic. That was me, and the rest of the cars following. His maneuver was quick, and illegal too.
It was scary, though I was alone in the car. Had I not swerved the car to avoid impact, the passenger side would have been smashed quite badly. ‘What if’ is not a good question to have to ask while driving midday through town.
The day before while driving from the North Shore to the downtown I got to experience another case of angry driving, likely due to slowness. Same idea – long lineup of cars and someone’s patience running thin.
It’s no news to anyone living in Kamloops that driving through the downtown and towards the North Shore by taking the Overlanders Bridge can be a frustrating experience these days. During rush hour and beyond, the traffic moves painfully slow at times along Victoria St., Lansdowne and Lorne St.; add a train to the mix and the bad becomes worse. The good news is that eventually all traffic tangles come to an end and everyone goes on their merry way. Safely so.
Somehow though some people seem to think that tailgating can solve the slowness as if you can push the line from behind (spoiler alert: it doesn’t.) Same with driving alongside cars lined up that are waiting to merge into that slow but respectful zipper. Skipping line is not bad karma and it can cause crashes like the one I managed to avoid.
All right, driving through the construction-ridden city can be a pain, but highway driving should be better, right? Ideally, if the drivers are courteous to each other and do not engage in dangerous passing maneuvers or tailgating. Trouble is, some are not and that makes it volatile for many others.
This is not a case of the slow, inexperienced driver (me) crying wolf. I have been driving a long time, safely, and I find it hard to make peace with the rush and impatience that dominate traffic nowadays. Distractions too, by phone especially. If you check the stats or talk to an insurance specialist, they’ll tell you things are not rosy. At 960 crashes a day in our province, there is little room for doubt that driving is not going too well in British Columbia and some days it’s all too easy to come close to becoming a statistic.
One of the reasons I find myself hypervigilant about traffic is because my eldest is about to take his new driver (N) test after which he’ll be on the road by himself. We go driving together regularly for practice and as I point out this and that, I also keep an eye on the other drivers. There are too many who no longer sport an N but engage in ‘immature’ driving breaking many of the traffic rules, which makes me wonder if they’d pass the driving test should they have to take it again.
Much like I never believed in studying hard just to pass the test, I do not believe that passing the driving test is in fact permission to drive as we please once we get our cars on the road. When it comes to driving, I am responsible for your life as much as you are for mine, because we share the road.
Passing the driving tests, starting with the learner’s, is about maturity and responsibility. Driving is fun and as much as we dislike construction zones and the often longer than expected duration of it all, spilling that frustration on other drivers will only make problems worse.
As for safety in general, construction zone or not, it should be indisputable. That’s the least we ought to keep in mind given that it’s pretty darn easy to get a driver’s license.
That’s what I tell my sons when we drive together. It’s fun but you have to keep it safe. Anger and impatience have no business gripping that steering wheel.