By Carol Glassman
A recent comment by the Collier County Sheriff’s Department on the high incidence of traffic fatalities in 2012 came to mind as I left home early one morning, heading to Naples. Traveling within the speed limit east on a quiet street, I was almost T-boned by the driver of a black SUV that shot out of a side street, without obeying the stop sign. That was the second time I experienced a similar incident at that street. I tried to get a good look at the driver when we reached the intersection at Collier. She was turning right while I was going left, not that she signaled that, her SUV was just pointed in that general direction. All I could see around the finger she kept showing me was a ‘soccer-type Mom’ with a baseball cap and pony tail, wearing what looked like workout clothes. Her SUV seemed filled with children and the story I invented for her, considering the time, was that she had to drop them off at school so that she wouldn’t be late for her exercise class or tennis lesson. It was a good thing she was so preoccupied with me and that there was a car in front of her: fortunately she missed hitting the three people who were jaywalking across the street, apparently too lazy or tired to cross to the correct corner with a light.
I continued north on Collier, stopping at the occupied pedestrian crosswalk near the Lutheran Church, while a large furniture delivery truck swept by me on the left without stopping, narrowly missing the pedestrian and making its turn onto Tigertail. About 20 yards further, an impatient pedestrian leaped in front of me, scooting diagonally across the road. Perhaps he witnessed the renegade delivery truck and decided to take his chances by jaywalking rather than walking a few extra steps to a crosswalk where both he and the flashing lights inset in the roadway would likely be ignored.
I was barely ten minutes and two or three miles from home, and already I could count several near misses: definitely not a good start to the day. Since I predicted another 40 minutes of driving until I reached my destination, I wondered if I would reach it in one piece. I decided to challenge my memory and try to document mentally all the examples of poor drivers and pedestrians I observed.
• Two motorcyclists driving side by side in the same lane.
• A bicyclist whipping along in the bike lane — in the wrong direction — not wearing a helmet.
• A large courier service rig, hurtling off the Island at such a speed that when I stopped at the lights at the Isles of Capri, he was unable to stop and simply slid around me almost removing the left side of my car, going through the red light, and continuing north on 951. He managed somehow to stop at the next intersection and was there when I arrived. His “How am I driving?” sign was tempting, but the phone number was obscured.
• A white pickup truck bursting out into traffic in front of me, from the government center parking lot on Airport Road
• A woman driver in a grey car, turning a very wide corner from US 41 onto Collier southbound, that deposited her in my lane, cutting me off.
If I were to list all the cars I saw slide through red lights, turn without signaling, cut off other cars by changing lanes dangerously and without signals, and the obviously speeding motorcycles and cars, I would fill this page. Most drivers are “ten-percenters” — taking a chance and driving approximately 10 percent over the limit. But when I am driving well under 60 mph in a 55 mph zone and a motorcycle leaves me in its jetstream, I often wish I had a James Bond-type cannon mounted on my left fender. Why is everyone in such a hurry? It always amazes me, as those who dip and dive in and out of lanes, dashing to get there first, always seem to be waiting at the stop light when I get there. I am no driving or traffic saint, but if I know there is going to be a lot of traffic, I don’t drive faster to get to an appointment, I simply leave a little earlier.
Your car’s brake lights already do your work for you by warning others that you intend to stop, but how much energy does it take, to flick your wrist and depress that signal to indicate a lane change, AFTER you have checked to see how safe it is? Maybe it would save a life, or at least prevent a collision. Just think of it as good manners.
I felt fortunate to arrive home unscathed around noon that day. At 2 PM there was a news flash that Collier Blvd. was closed in all directions after a bicycle/ vehicle crash at Capri Blvd. Sad, but not surprising.
We all know the quantity of traffic has almost doubled as we face the seasonal influx of visitors. This is not new. Can we not adjust to this, and perhaps adopt at least one good driving or walking habit? I know it’s difficult to teach old dogs new tricks, as I admit to suffering from old habits dying hard myself, but every time a car goes speeding by me, I am reminded of the phrase: “Are you rushing to get to the cemetery first?”