Dangerous driving is making our streets unsafe

Doane Yawger

Lately I have been seeing something out on the road that scares me to pieces and I just can’t keep quiet about it.

Traffic signals have three elements, green, yellow and red colors. We should know what they mean but in case you slept through driver’s education class in school, here’s a brief explanation. When a light is green it means you can proceed through an intersection at regular speed. You have the right-of-way. When the light turns yellow, it means it will be changing shortly to red. A red light simply means you should not enter.

Just about every day I see a motorist blast through an intersection when the light is red in their direction. The yellow went away several seconds before and cross traffic should be moving by this point.

I know of at least two instances around here where a fatal traffic collision resulted when the motorist started through a green light and was T-boned in the driver door by somebody speeding through that intersection. These offending drivers already may be moving faster than the prevailing speed limit and then go even faster through the intersection to “sneak” through. Where did this need for speed come from?

Sometimes you need to accelerate through a yellow light just after it first appears but not after it’s all red. If it’s at all possible, I will try to stop at that yellow light. It may mean a nose-dive stop where everything in the back seat ends up on the floor including the pumpkin pie.

Where did the thinking arise that it’s OK to try to sneak through a traffic signal when it’s all red? How did this learned behavior evolve? I have only noticed it for a couple years and it’s gotten much worse in recent months.

At intersections I usually wait a couple of seconds before proceeding so I don’t get caught with an offending car or truck nailing me in the door. I am pretty sure that Merced is not the only place where this happens.

Our police officers can’t be everywhere at the same time so this brazen behavior largely goes unpunished. We all are in such a hurry to get where we are going but the seconds saved going through a red light just aren’t worth it. It happens pretty regularly at the intersection of G Street and Bear Creek Drive and at M Street and Bear Creek.

In one instance I was starting through an intersection on M Street near the county administration building when I luckily stopped only moments before a car whizzed through right in front of me. That was close! In this case I don’t think the motorist was paying any attention to the traffic lights at all and this is a horse of a different color. We have got to be alert at all times and not let anything else distract us.

There is at least one other disturbing pattern I see fairly often. It’s on Highway 99 and other highways and a “road warrior” blazes by you probably at 90 to 100 mph, maybe even higher. Sometimes this individual darts in and out of the lanes to get around traffic that is quite a bit slower, passing other cars with only inches to spare.

Again the question arises: How did this unlawful and dangerous behavior develop? Doesn’t the daredevil realize the possible consequences of these actions? I think anyone caught doing this should go directly to jail and stay there for a while. Of course this is the time of year when you hear about lots of drunken driving arrests and that’s another no-no — overindulging in Demon Rum and getting behind the wheel.

While we are at it, fairly frequently I notice bicyclists at night running around with no lights at all and all-dark clothing. Again, close calls were the order of the day and I don’t want to hurt someone while driving.

It would have been much more fun to write about 1959 Fords or the tailfins on a 1959 Cadillac here but this has to be said. I want y’all to be around for years to come so we can chat about those tailfins or something less life-threatening.

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