I lost a little faith in human nature today. I'm in Edmonton attending a course and am staying at my grandma's condo downtown (thanks grandma!) with my wife and two boys. It's a good hike from Walmart South Common, where the course is, to grandma's condo, so I have ample opportunity to witness the egregious display of human stupidity that is rush hour in Edmonton.
I consider myself a safe and smart driver and my untarnished driving record speaks for it. I give most of the credit for this to my dad who I consider to be one of the safest and smartest drivers I know. His language is not always PG-rated, but he gets you there safely and, by using his brain, he always arrives in a timely manner, WITHOUT resorting to speeding I might add. Coupled with this and his insistence that you always think 5 steps ahead when driving and always plan your route MILES before you need to, I have picked up some of his great habits. It also helps that he has ingrained in me the assumption that every other driver on the road is a complete moron.
This may sound unfair, but it makes sense. It's called defensive driving. If you assume other people are world class drivers, you could assume that you could cross this driveway entry because that car bearing down on you would certainly be using his signal light if he intended to turn into the driveway. But if you assume he is a moron, you will wait until he has either turned into the driveway without signalling or has in fact passed right by it before you set foot in that crossing. It's just safe.
So it is that I set out on my journey home this evening. Assuming they are all morons. And there was ample evidence to prove my point. Donkey boy in his fancy truck swerving around the road because he was totally oblivious to those around him while he talked about the new sequined Italian shoes he bought at Gucci for $500 on his cellphone he bought to replace the one he bought last week. Or the genius who thinks that driving 20 km/h in a 50km/h zone is safer than driving the speed limit. Or Einstein who spends 20 blocks slowing down at each intersection to check the sign because he didn't plan his route before leaving home. Or Mr. Mensa who cuts abruptly into your lane because the guy in front of him is not driving 100 in a 50 zone and then so courteously flashes his right signal light once after he's already in front of you. Thanks for the heads up. But the prize today goes to a motorcyclist.
Driving down 104 Avenue during rush hour is at the best of times nerve wracking. But no matter how much you hate it, just stay in the lane you need to be in to arrive at your destination, because you can do all the lane changing you want, but you're not going anywhere any faster. Not according to Mr. Motorbike today. I saw him swerving in and out of traffic like a lonely bee in a field of newly bloomed clover. He figured if he just changed lanes fast enough and often enough he JUST might make it there 2 minutes earlier. A block or more before reaching the intersection of 104 Avenue and 105 Street, the walking signal started flashing and doing the countdown, warning oncoming drivers that the yellow light was about to turn. In this case, it makes it real simple for even the dimmest bulbs in the crowd and counts it down. 16, 15, 14,.... So any intelligent driver gauges his speed and how quickly he is bearing down on the intersection. If you know you will reach the intersection right when the light hits 1, you cover your brakes and prepare to stop at a yellow.
Not genius. He figures he can beat the system. In rush hour traffic. In a 50 zone. With 10 cars between him and the next intersection. So I'm in the right hand lane and the road widens to include a right turning lane. Again, demonstrating human stupidity and ignorance of traffic laws, TWO cars are in the left turning lane on 104 Ave eastbound. When the light turns yellow, my group, those of us heading west on 104 Ave, diligently stop to allow these individuals to turn left and clear the intersection. In case you were wondering, the moron here is the second driver because there should only be ONE car in the intersection at once to execute a left turn, despite the fact that most intersections in Edmonton will witness 3 or more clearing the intersection, some of which ENTER the intersection after the red light comes on, as though there is some magical grace period for left-turning drivers only.
So eastbound 1 and eastbound 2 start turning left. Well, Mr. Motorbike is not about to WAIT for the laggards in front of him to run the red, so he takes advantage of this newly found land on the right hand side of the road called a right TURNING lane and passes myself and the gentleman in front of me. And now what?
That's right. Broadside of a barn. Thankfully he didn't appear to be fatally wounded or I could not poke fun at his stupidity without feeling a little bit guilty. He smashed full speed into the passenger side of eastbound 1, a Nissan Pathfinder, and was then treated to a lesson in inertia and careened through the back passenger window. His bike lay in a crumpled heap on the road spewing oil everywhere. Eastbound 2, who should not have been involved in the accident had she been actually accessing the thought centres in her cerebrum, proceeded to rear end Eastbound 1 when he came to an abrupt stop after being T-boned by a human torpedo. As a bit of salt in the wound, her car proceeded to inflict further damage on Speed Racer's motorbike.
Thus ends loss in faith of human nature event #1.
I immediately put my car in park. Guy in front of me as well. At least 10 vehicles witnessed the accident. Total number of vehicles stopping to help and see if everything is okay=3. One gentleman got out, called 911 on his cellphone, and then promptly fled the scene as he likely had some very important meeting to attend at 5:00 on a Wednesday afternoon that excluded him from the commonsense necessity of providing a witness statement to the rapidly arriving police. Car #2 basically made sure no one was dead and then also proceeded to leave. Car #3, me, calmly pulled to the curb, parked my car, and stepped out. Fire and ambulance arrived almost immediately and ambulance took Speed Racer to hospital in a neck brace, what looked to me to only be precautionary.
I stuck around and filed a witness statement with the police. The police officer was very grateful because remarkably, at a VERY BUSY intersection at which NUMEROUS cars witnessed the accident, I was the ONLY driver who stopped to provide a witness statement.
Thus ends loss in faith of human nature event #2.
What has come of us? Our need to succeed and cram every possible last thing into our days, our disregard for others, the rarity of commonsense and our slavery to deadlines and timelines were all contributors to this accident.
The unfortunate thing about the word "accident" is that it implies a completely unavoidable event with no causality attributable to human behavior. Rarely are motor vehicle collisions (a much better word) accidents in the truest sense of the word. Most of the time, except when freak weather is involved, they involve some aspect of human behavior, be it stupidity, negligence, aggression, oblivion, ignorance, or intoxication. So please, for the sake of other drivers and pedestrians, passengers, and families of all the aforementioned, be the smartest driver on the road and assume the rest of us are all morons.