I noticed on Friday that I had nearly missed all of Stop on Red Week, an effort to promote public safety by encouraging people to stop for red traffic lights.
My first reaction was that devoting a week to such an obvious theme seems to be a waste of time, money and elbow grease. Who doesn’t know that a red light means stop? Even my just-turned-8-year-old could explain the finer points of green, yellow and red traffic lights.
One might as well devote seven days to “Breathe Air Week.” It should be that simple. It should be second nature.
But, of course, we know that unfortunately that’s not the case. There are still far too many people who speed up when they see a yellow light. Sometimes they make it, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they even blow right through a solid red light—no hint of yellow in sight. We know this because at two of our busiest intersections we have cameras monitoring traffic light violations. Those cameras record people running red lights, often as many as dozens of them each day, even at the risk of getting a ticket in the mail and having to pay a fine of more than $100.
But this column is not about those red light cameras. I’ve discussed those in this space before, and made my opinions pretty clear.
Instead, I wanted to write about how drivers treat red lights, and other traffic laws in general.
Just a few weekends ago, I drove to Osceola to visit my older son at scout camp. It was a mostly uneventful trip, though I do remember at least one occasion where an impatient driver pulled out to pass slower traffic despite there being a double yellow line. I suppose it’s possible that he or she didn’t know what a double yellow line means, but the lack of visibility due to a curve in the road should have been a strong enough signal that passing was not advisable.
And then there was my trip to the store the other day, when I literally had to walk around someone parked directly in front of the door, squarely in the middle of an area clearly marked “Fire lane – No parking.” I wondered what kind of person wasn’t able to see that, or who thought it just didn’t apply to their particular situation.
And then there was Tuesday morning. I had just arrived home for lunch, and as I rolled the empty trash can up from the curb, a large truck drove past. I was nowhere near the road, hadn’t indicated that I was going to step out into traffic and hadn’t even made eye contact with anyone else, but the driver of this truck gunned his engine as he passed, pushing his speed well past the 30 mile and hour limit—probably closer to 45. Never mind that our street has closely packed houses with families, children, pets, cross traffic and all kinds of other potential hazards; this driver apparently was offended that I was even in the general vicinity of the street and voiced his displeasure by revving the gas as he passed.
These things bother me, because it’s that kind of attitude that makes car accidents so common. If more people simply followed the rules of the road, observed the speed limit, stop signs, stop lights and the actions of other vehicles around them, probably 95 percent—maybe more—of the accidents that happen could be prevented. I haven’t been in a crash since I was a teenager, and believe me, that was a while back. I simply pay attention, follow the rules and am able to avoid sticky situations on the road.
Now, I can’t say for sure that the people who park in a fire lane are also the people who would run a red light or pass traffic in a no-passing zone. But I wouldn’t doubt if they are. They certainly exhibit the same disregard for the law and for the other people around them.
Just imagine: If everyone in a car obeyed the speed limit, observed traffic signals, didn’t cut corners, behaved courteously toward other drivers and generally paid attention to what was going on around them, we could probably reduce the number of accidents by 90 percent—not to mention the number of tickets for all manner of violations.
So, last week was Stop on Red Week. Personally, I think every week should be Stop on Red Week.
By Eric Copeland • email@example.com