Tag Archives: red light

Zen Driver

Blue Car at a Red Light near some Green GrassYou’re sitting in your car at a red light. In the lane next to you is a driver in another car.

Question: Does it matter how he got there?

If you’re the typical and average obliviot, the answer is no. You’re too busy yapping on your cell phone, texting, fiddling with the radio, playing with your cigarette lighter, or daydreaming. To you, the guy is just another driver. When the light turns green, it takes a couple of seconds to pierce your consciousness, then you slowly accelerate on your way. Meanwhile, the guy next to you punched it like a drag racer when the light turned green, easily got in front of you, and now you’re eating his dust and slowing to a stop as he makes the next turn.

Whoa. What just happened?

Scenario: You’re on a one-way street with two lanes and sitting at a red light. There are two possibilities for how that car got next to you. Either he was always in that lane or he was originally in your lane, saw you at the red light, saw the open lane, and made the switcharoo.

What’s the difference?

To the obliviot driver, the answer is none.

But what about the driver with 360 degrees of zen awareness? To him, there’s a big difference. You see, he knows that if the other driver was originally in his lane, then the odds are high that he’ll want to be back. In other words, that other guy wants the same lane but is changing just because the other lane is open. And, the chances are high that he’ll want to be back. In fact, he may even want to make that turn one block hence, forcing you to eat his ass.

I know. That’s not very nice of him but most drivers can’t resist being in that #1 spot.

Television commercials propagate this. They always show their wares flying around like little lightning bolts, always in motion, and usually never another car in sight. They somehow seem to know that showing their product on the 405 with 10-miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic in every direction and a top speed of 1 mph isn’t quite as exciting.

So yeah, to a zen driver like me, it makes a difference how that driver got there. Because I don’t want to have to ride my brakes just because another asshole wanted to save one-half of a second on his drive.

While I’m sitting at that red light I know exactly what that other guy may be up to, since I watched him originally approach in my lane then switch to the other lane. I watched him in my mirrors. I know where he was and I can guess what he might be up to.

Here’s the fun part. I used to drive a typical four-cylinder piece of shit and I’d punch it and try to block that asshole, but he’d easily out-power me and take “my” space. I always imagined he was cackling with glee, too.

Now, though, I am the captain of an American-made vessel with a whopping eight-cylinders. When I lay that pedal on the floor, it’s a very rare vehicle indeed that can still get ahead of me. I don’t drive the fastest thing on the road but 99% of the time, it is enough. And those are the moments that make life worth living.

Since I’m passive-aggressive, I keep it subtle. I’m on to his game but he isn’t necessarily aware of mine. So I ease on that sucker just enough to block him out. The fun part is keeping it even with his rear bumper. He can taste it but just can’t get the room to make his move.

Sometimes they’ll catch on and put the pedal to the metal and get a short lead. I respond in kind, more than keeping my distance and edging them out. That’s when they “know.” They realize that they aren’t just dealing with an average sucker obliviot. Then, that fantastical moment when the resign themselves to their fate, ease off the gas, and start to drift back. A car-length away, they finally make their move and get behind me. Then they make their little turn.

Splash another bogey! Deep six, yo, motherfucka.

Tom’s Law #42
The odds of a driver (who is making a turn within the next block) changing to the empty lane are exponentially proportional to the number of cars in his lane.

If the driver wants to turn right within a block and the right lane is empty there’s almost a 100% chance the driver won’t change lanes. (It’s never 100% because at least .44% of drivers are legally insane.)

With just one car in the way, that percentage drops to 90%. In other words, 10% of drivers will try make that aggressive maneuver and cut the other driver off to make their turn.

With just two cars ahead, that percentage jumps to 30%. By the time there are seven cars or more in the same lane, there is statistically not a driver in the world, even the most timid, that can resist that open lane. It’s just human nature. It’s almost like they say, “I know I’m going to miss my lane, but that lane is open. How often am I going to get a chance like this?”

Practice your zen, my friends. Stay thirsty.

Click It Or Sticky Wicket

I freely admit it. I cried like a little girl that first night in jail. They say never let ’em see weakness but I couldn’t help it. But at the same time I wasn’t oblivious. I could see the other prisoners betting cigarettes on how long I’d last. But I’d show ’em all!

The next day I was released to the yard along with everyone else. Dammit. Then a big mean looking bald guy approached me. Here it comes, I thought. This is how it ends for me.

“What are you in for, man?” he asked me.

I looked him straight in the eye. “Seat belt violations, motherfucker,” I said. “One shitload of tickets.”

They pretty much left me alone after that…

I’ll be straight up with you. I think our nation’s fixation with programs like Click It Or Ticket (CIOT) is misguided. And I’ll tell you why.

Some argue that CIOT is a violation of our civil rights. They say that government has no business in coercing us to take care of ourselves. This is especially a sticking point for opponents of motorcycle helmet laws.

Some have argued that seat belt enforcement is an invasion of our privacy because officers have to look into vehicles without probable cause.

These are interesting points that may or may not have some validity. But I say fuck all that as irrelevant. I say that safety enforcement should be prioritized based on a very simple criteria. Just for fun, I’ll call it who is the meat with the brain splatter.

This approach is a simple one and seeks to understand who is at risk, not the nature of the infraction.

Consider an idiot who drives without their seat belt. Who’s meat are they risking? Their own. If they decide to go SVA (single vehicle accident) into a tree or roll their rig, they are the ones who will suffer from brain splatter. SVAs are a special case that, unless the result of something like mechanical failure or acts of God, are generally textbook examples of self-Darwinism. The vast majority of SVAs are caused by intoxicants, excessive speed, and/or operator error.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that shoveling up the brain splatter can be disturbing, but that’s not a valid reason for prioritizing enforcement of seat belt laws artificially high. Besides, the people who scrape up brains – that’s their job. One that probably pays two to three times what I make, and with excellent benefits, too. Sorry, they can deal with it.

Note: I’m not talking about children here. The drivers of vehicles have a moral obligation to protect underage passengers. (This will be address by my hypothesis below.)

A step in the right direction

The same thing goes for motorcycle helmets, too. When I ride I always wear a helmet. You’d have to be a friggin’ moron to do otherwise. (Case in point: See Ben Rothlisberger.) My head happens to be where I store my gray matter and I’m pretty fucking partial to that shit. It’s all-important to me and oh-so-fragile and irreplaceable, so yeah, I’m going to protect it. Therefore I have never ridden without a full helmet. None of that “screw the cops” half-helmet bullshit for me.

Again, though, if you opt to ride without a helmet, who are you risking? Yourself. Sure, you might get brains on someone’s windshield but the presence (or not) of your helmet is not very likely to have a life or death impact on others.

So why the emphasis on the enforcement of laws like these? Where the friggin’ hell are the programs for things like red light runners? Ever heard of one? I sure haven’t.

The thing with red light runners is that they put the lives of other people than themselves at extreme high risk of serious injury and death. If we want to enforce some traffic laws, why the hell don’t we start with something like that?

My hypothesis is simple:

Proactive enforcement of traffic safety laws should be prioritized based on the danger to innocent people.

Drivers who refuse to wear seat belts, stupid and annoying though they may be, by far only pose a significant risk to themselves. Therefore, under my hypothesis, enforcement prioritization of seat belt laws would be minimal.

You been eating twinkies? You're going downtown, creep!

Drivers under the effects of intoxicants greatly risk the lives of innocent people, therefore proactive enforcement for that should be very high. Ditto for those who dangerously break laws like running red lights.

To this day our DUII laws are far too gutless. Yes, the enforcement prioritization is there, as it should be. There are DUII programs and funding. But the punishments are far too lax. If I had my say, upon conviction for a first offense the offender would lose their license to drive for three years and the vehicle, regardless of ownership, would be forfeit. Period. A punishment would sure make vehicle owners think about driving while intoxicated, eh? And it would force employers and friends to be highly discriminating of who they trusted with their wheels, too.

A second conviction would result in a loss of driving privileges for life and mandatory jail time.

Talking on cell phones while driving or, worse yet, texting, is rightly getting attention, too. For once, things might be working as they should. Rare, I know. When innocent lives hang in the balance due to egregious selfishness and stupidity, enforcement must drop like a hammer and the laws must have enough teeth to actually make a difference and weed out the most foolish amongst us.

Similarly, I’d drastically increase enforcement on red light runners. Too many people get impatient and take liberties with red lights that they shouldn’t. In my town the problem is at epidemic levels and law enforcement still doesn’t do jack shit about the problem. There is no funding and no enforcement prioritization. I predict it won’t be long until a vehicle is t-boned or a pedestrian is flattened and innocent lives are irrevocably destroyed.

In my experience law enforcement is supposed to have a proactive component. I’ve heard a figure that says 43% of law enforcement should be proactive. (Our local police aren’t there yet.) But the way it seems to work is that this doesn’t happen unless there is some grant that funds overtime, which is fantastically probably the most inefficient way to prosecute things like traffic safety programs. And that grant money is typically narrowly restricted to very specific applications, like CIOT, DUII or pedestrian stings. Those who give out grant money don’t want local communities making their own prioritization decisions. So the money comes with strings attached.

CIOT, for example, is typically conducted with overtime paid for my “federal highway safety grant funding.” Where is the funding for red light enforcement programs, if there even is such a thing?

Why so much emphasis on CIOT? My personal theory is that it is based on some sort of “do-gooder complex.” Some apparently see it as their role to force people take care of themselves. Sounds like they have control issues to me. Perhaps they’ll also come up with a program to enforce restrictions on Texas contributions to world cuisine like deep-fried twinkies, deep-fried pork ribs, deep-fried cheesecake, deep-fried Coke, chicken fried bacon, deep-fried banana splits, deep-fried beer, and, of course, deep-fried butter.

Fuck that. Fund the traffic safety programs that prioritize the increased safety of innocent people. The innocent must be prioritized above the moronic!

Are you a moron? Do you have a death wish? I say fine and dandy. Feel free to take yourself out, hopefully before you’ve procreated and passed along your genes. We shouldn’t spend our time, money and resources trying to stop you.

Let’s concentrate on protecting the innocent instead. Let us prioritize the safety of the innocent above the safety of the stupid.