I originally wanted to start this letter stating that the CSRA has the worst drivers I’ve ever experienced. That’s not very precise, though, is it? Bad drivers really are everywhere, and sometimes (gasp!) we are the bad drivers. I’ve certainly made some mistakes behind the wheel, as in life, and if we are all honest with ourselves, we can all admit the same.
The “bad” drivers here are of a different strain than I’ve ever encountered. There is not road rage of the type I’ve experienced elsewhere. Traffic here rarely backs up for miles. I’ve never seen someone driving on the shoulder of the road to go around gridlock or because other cars refuse to allow merging. I haven’t seen any cars do a sudden four-lane cross over because a freeway exit is on the left instead of the right. It appears, with a few exceptions, that the roads here are well laid out and easy to follow.
What I see is a lot of distracted drivers. Drivers talking on the phone. Drivers texting. Drivers speeding through parking lots. Drivers speeding through neighborhoods. Drivers running through red lights. Drivers hitting and killing cyclists. Drivers hitting pedestrians.
It’s dangerous. I am afraid to walk, drive or bike here. One recent day at 3 p.m. on Broad Street, I was crossing the street with my two children in the crosswalk with the signal, and was nearly hit by a motorist in a red van speeding through the intersection making a left turn. I highly doubt the motorist even saw that we were in the crosswalk, with our backs to them. The vehicle passed within six inches of my family. It was terrifying.
I’ve been reflecting on the event in absolute gratitude we survived.
I’ve also been wondering why. Why do I see this type of driving so often here? Here, where I am absolutely blown away by the courteous behavior of others. Here, where doors are opened for me and there is such politeness of manner.
I have a two-part theory. First, there seems to be no consequences to speeding here. In three years, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a car pulled over. Sure, I’ll see the sheriff’s office trailer with the speed gauge around town, but that’s about it.
Second, I think that because there is not a lot of traffic congestion, drivers have become passive and complacent. They don’t notice when they come off of the highway and into a residential area and continue at the same speed. They feel it is OK to take that phone call because they know where they are going and there is little to pay attention to.
I urge everyone to engage when they are behind the wheel.