Thursday, December 13, 2007

Between the lines

As a frequent pedestrian in the automobile-obsessed Mecca that is Southern California I have noticed with some regularity evidence that drivers are not pay attention, at least not all the time. If it's not a matter of failing to paying attention it indicates they're just bad drivers, which is no more comforting.

I am not suggesting that when I'm behind the wheel that I am any better, by the way. That's part of what makes me happier about taking public transportation and then walking: I'm not making myself part of the problem.

When I am a pedestrian amongst the cars it is always the reality that my safety relies on the drivers acknowledging my existence, but it is somewhat disquieting when they demonstrate that they aren't or weren't until the last second.

The most frequent example of this, and the one I find particularly flummoxing, is when I am crossing the street at an intersection where I am in the clearly defined crosswalk, with the "walk" sign, and where the traffic signal for the cars on the perpendicular direction has been red for many seconds. Seems simple enough. However, on many occasions as I'm crossing a car that's approaching from that perpendicular direction pulls up to the edge of the crosswalk and has to practically slam on the brakes to stop without sliding into the crosswalk. Again, the light didn't just turn; for that driver it has been red for plenty of time to alert him/her that stopping will be necessary and allow him/her to cease the forward momentum of the vehicle without causing the brakes to squeal, but no effort was put into smoothly stopping. And had I not been in, you know, the area designated for pedestrians, with, you know, the right-of-way, the car would still need to stop because, um, that's what the red light means, and because barreling out into the cross-traffic of the other cars would not be in the driver's best interests.

The really puzzling aspect is that such behavior, if nothing else, indicates the driver hasn't grasped that it's not good for the brakes to stop abruptly like that, especially when it can be avoided. Apparently these people enjoy spending time at their mechanics' shops.

There are those who aren't locking up the brakes but are still having to stop before they were otherwise going to. These people simply fail to grasp that the line of the crosswalk is the point before which one is supposed to stop, not the point at which one should start braking.

Clearly humans were never intended to operate motor vehicles; we lack the ability to simultaneously focus on all that requires attention while driving.

If any effort were being put into focusing, that is.

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