Saturday, May 1, 2010

There Oughtta Be A Law!

By LC Van Savage

Do you think it’s true that before we citizens can get laws to change, some Big Tragedy has to happen? Seems that way to me. You know how it goes; one’s home town will finally put in a traffic light but only after there’s been a great big bloody accident, this after years of people begging for a traffic light. Stupid, right? But it’s the way of things.

So tell me please; when will there ever be a law passed forcing people who walk or run or bike on roadways, any roadways, at dusk or in the dark, to wear reflective materials? Not just white, but gaudy flame orange or bright caterpillar guts green, all shiny with reflective material. I am a most cautious driver and brag obnoxiously about never having had an accident—OK, that jerk ran into us last November but that was different—and that I keep up with the flow of traffic and don’t hotdog around roadways, tailgating, speeding and passing etc. I’m a good driver, a safe driver but I can’t count the times I’ve very nearly sent people to their Great Rewards because one evening when I had to drive somewhere, they decided to go Gothic, fashionable, Grunge, whatever, and wear black from tip to heels, and then decide take a little constitutional around the neighborhood or jump on board their bikes and wheel on out onto the highways. Want to know what reflective materials lots of folks think are just fine? One postage stamp sized stick-on on the back of each heel. Maybe a pair of dirty white sneakers. And that is it. Nothing on the backs of their bikes. And so that’s what we drivers may, or may not see as we’re driving to our destinations; just this tiny small reflection of something, if at all, and folks, it’s just not enough.

Motorcyclists by law have reflecting and regular lights on the backs of their machines, just as cars do, so the likelihood of our slamming them into saecula saeculorum is greatly reduced. But everyone else swathed in black, or even dark brown, navy blue, dark grey is on a collision course with deceasement, and I dislike the idea that I could be the deceaser.

What are you wearers of all dark clothing thinking as you go out in the night? Do you want to get hit by a vehicle with hopes you can clean up with a big lawsuit, presupposing you survive the collision? Do you people who deliberately dress like Bela Lugosi and head out for some good night air ever really care about how dangerous your actions are for yourselves or others? After all, if we hit and kill you, our lives are ended too.

So back to my original question; how come there’s no law forcing people to wear reflective material if they’re going to take a stroll or a ride or walk their dogs on a starless, moonless night swathed in dark clothing? Or even on a brightly lit night? We drivers just can’t see you, folks. Get with it! Lighten up!! Advertise the fact that you’re out there. Swing a flashlight. Hang a red tail light off your dog’s butt. Hang one off your own. Get creative.

And by the way, while all you jocks who love to run are running in a great, wide group of pals, day or night, do you think it might be possible that you run in single file far off to the side of the road? I know it’s fun to chat while you’re wrecking your knees and getting all trim and wearing wings on your heels, and I know it’s the sign of a mighty athlete to be able to converse easily with each other while running for miles and miles, but could you give the drivers behind you or coming toward you a little break and get into a single file? That way we’ll only pick off one or two of you instead of a whole flock, and that’s of course a good thing. Well, maybe a better thing, right?

And since I think I have your undivided, here’s another gripe; I understand and respect the fact that people have the right to walk across busy byways in the marked crosswalks and that it is our responsibility as drivers to stop as soon as one of your toes touches the asphalt. But because there are stripes painted across a boulevard does not give you pedestrians the right to just stroll out there without looking to the left and the right. Or to stroll out there chatting with your boy/girlfriends on your cell phones. Or to stroll out there reading your newspapers. Or to stroll out there deep, way deep in thought. When I’ve had to screech to a stop so abruptly all my coffee cups, candy wrappers and groceries go hurtling in the way that the science of physics say they will because you “have the right” to walk out in front of me without looking both ways, it pretty much ticks me off, and especially when then you turn and look at me and shout something obscene about your having the right of way, along with having the right to cross the street at the cross walk or any other @#$%^*!# place you choose. OK Pal, you do have those rights, but you don’t have the right to do that without checking on me first because if you don’t do that checking thing, then I do have the right to run you down like a rat, OK Pal?

And one other thing, and it’s usually women who do this. Please do NOT lure people standing on roadsides out into the traffic stream with your frantic do-gooder waving just to “be kind” and “just to help them across the street.” You’re helping them to the hospital. It is not your job to wave them out; it is their job to cross at the proper place and to look out for traffic. Do not slam on your brakes causing everyone behind you to slam on theirs just to entice walkers out because you want to do your one good deed for the day.

So there you have it; my pet peeves about issues which will probably never change. But it surely feels great to complain and fantasize that these things will change by virtue of my powerful (not) clouty (not) column. But hey, I’ll make you a deal; if you will all snap into a smart single file as my car approaches when you and your friends run in great clots together, if you will always wear lots of reflective clothing when you “go abroad of an evening” as they said in the old days, if you will not stop and wave people to their deaths by being helpful in traffic, and if you’ll stop, look, and listen before you wander into traffic at a crosswalk, then I swear I’ll never run you over, OK? Great. Good plan. Let’s take a pledge.

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