It’s summertime, but the driving is never easy.
If you haven’t noticed the bad habits of your fellow motorists, it may be because you were texting. Or trying to avoid pedestrians sauntering into the middle of Worcester’s Main Street. Or maybe you just assume driving in Central Massachusetts is an extreme sport, and are behaving accordingly.
In any case, for whatever good it does, here’s a short guide for newcomers to Central Massachusetts or those who may have forgotten some key rules.
First, driving is a privilege, not a right. Freedom of speech and religion are rights. Driving is a privilege. You must prove competence and be licensed. Abuse the privilege and your license may be suspended or revoked, or you may be among the more than 30,000 Americans who die on the highways each year.
More Sina-cism from Chris Sinacola:
- In Dudley, Muslims need not apply
- A computer science ‘gap’ that doesn’t exist
- Enter the trigger-man, guns blazing
Speed. Many drivers enjoy seeing how quickly they can get from Point A to Point B. This simply means they should have left home or work sooner. Your speed is not a demonstration of your skill or coolness. It is a serious threat to yourself and others.
Sure, you can go a little over posted speed limits, or with the flow of traffic, and provided you otherwise behave responsibly most police officers won’t trouble you. But the laws of physics always apply: The higher your speed, the less time you have to react to an accident or hazard. Everything that can happen on the road eventually does, and is usually made worse with speed.
Red lights and stop signs. These are not suggestions. They mean you must come to a complete stop. There is no rule giving you extra seconds to clear an intersection when the light is red. Yellow lights mean slow down and stop, not accelerate through the intersection and risk your life to save a minute of waiting.
Right turns on red. These are legal in Massachusetts, but only after coming to a full stop. And ignoring or violating a “No Turn on Red” sign is the same as running a red light. Moreover, if you are behind someone who chooses not to make a legal right turn on red, you have no right to honk at them, go around them, or creep close enough to inspect the atomic structure of their rear bumper. Be patient.
Blocking intersections. Sometimes you find yourself nearing an intersection with the green light, but with doubtful prospects for clearing that intersection before the light turns red. The law is clear: Do not enter that intersection unless you are certain you can clear it. Blocking intersections is illegal, creates gridlock, and can get you killed.
The right-hand lane on the Mass Pike. I use the so-called “slow” lane of the Pike because I believe it reduces my odds of dying in a fiery crash with drivers who weave in and out of the other lanes without regard for sense or safety. I proceed at or about the speed limit until I get to my exit.
Invariably, a string of cars come calling at my rear bumper. Most simply go around me. Some drivers, however, appear to believe I should move aside for them. This is incorrect. Unless you are a trucker in a tight spot because of other stupid motorists (in which case I will do whatever I can safely do to accommodate you), I am not moving. Simply signal, look twice, then pass me. We’ll both feel better.
The Walking Dead. Some pedestrians in Worcester still use crosswalks and obey walk lights. Too many simply cross whenever and wherever they wish. Although jaywalking is rarely prosecuted, it’s still a violation of the law. More seriously, it’s a violation of common sense and safety.
Jaywalk in New York City and you are likely to be killed. Jaywalk in Worcester, and most motorists will stop for you. But you’re not helping improve the safety of our roadways. You’re making life more difficult for everyone, including law-abiding pedestrians who must now deal with irate and frustrated drivers.
Finally, I’ll try harder, too. I could go on at much greater length – about parking, tollbooths, and rights of way in Worcester’s Kelley Square. But I’ll end with a confession. Occasionally, I have been impatient or rude when behind the wheel. Yes, often because of other drivers, but that doesn’t excuse my behavior. I can do better and promise to try. I hope you’ll join me.
Summer is just starting, and wouldn’t it be nice if we all lived to see autumn?