I cringe every time I get in my car to drive home. Unfortunately, I work downtown, and live on the far west side of Manhattan. As I drive home every day, I observe my fellow drivers doing things that make me question their knowledge of the rules of driving in Kansas.
The most egregious of these observances occurs at the corner of 14th Street and Anderson Avenue. Every day, as I sit at the light and wait for it to turn, I watch the cars in front of me make traffic violation after traffic violation. The light on 14th Street does not have a left-turn arrow, although I definitely think it should, because I have seen the left-turning traffic back up a block or more. Then, as the line files out onto Anderson, I see pedestrians run and dodge turning vehicles in an attempt to cross the road. I also see oncoming traffic stop and wait for the ignorant drivers turning in front of them rather than doing what the law calls for — yield to on-coming traffic and pedestrians. I was absolutely baffled the day a Kansas State University police officer in a marked police car stopped and waiting for a left-turning driver to turn — right in front of the cop! Did the cop stop the driver? Not at all. I do think the driver knew he/she was in the wrong because of the stop-and-go hesitation in turning and the cop finally waving the driver through.
But seriously, the traffic laws are not that complicated, and I think it was one of the first rules of the road I learned as a student driver: yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians when turning left. It seems the drivers of today are either spoiled with turning arrows, impatient or just rude. I am surprised there are not more accidents at the intersection.
The other driving habit I have observed from my fellow denizens is that people feel it unnecessary to use their turn signals. I find this bad habit quite infuriating. I am driving along and the car in front of me suddenly slows down or stops for no apparent reason. Then, just as suddenly, its taillight begins blinking and it whips around a corner or crosses traffic. While I do enjoy getting my pulse up once in a while, I do not enjoy having my commute unnecessarily interrupted because of someone’s rude behavior. Stopping for no apparent reason is also a ticketable offense, but tickets are rarely doled out unless the action causes an accident.
I know this because police do not pull people over and hand out tickets for not signaling. If they did, more people would be inclined to use their signals. By the way, a person must signal 100 feet before the turn; that’s less than one-third of a block, not half a block or half a mile. It is easy to tell where drivers need to turn on their blinkers with yellow “no parking” paint on the curb; it is roughly the same distance.
It was not that long ago when I was working late and an accident occurred east of town that sent two people to the hospital. In reading the accident report from the highway patrol, the driver who caused three cars to pile up was cited for stopping in the middle of the road for no reason. I presume the driver stopped to turn but decided it was too much trouble to signal. Perhaps it is not the driver’s problem, but rather an oversight on the vehicle. I know turn signals come standard in every car I have ever owned. And I see people use their blinkers sometimes, accidentally. They seem to wink at me for miles and miles and miles before their driver notices and turns it off. This usually occurs when the driver is ready to turn, conveniently shutting it off to keep the drivers behind him/her guessing, as if the miles previous had not already accomplished that goal.
Perhaps it is too much to ask for common courtesy on the road; after all, people are rude in restaurants and grocery stores, at work and home. Why would we find one second of the day to be polite to others when it is an unwritten rule in the United States that if you are not rude, you are not American?