Monday, February 05, 2007

Trucks, bikes, and automobiles

Another excellent post from Wilkes-Barre Online, written in the aftermath of a crash in which a driver, attempting to pass a car in a no-passing zone, lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a crowd of kids waiting at a bus stop, injuring one of them very seriously.

Mr. WBO has some very strong views of vehicular safety, speaking as both a bicycle commuter and a commercial truck driver. I also spent nearly two years as a bicycle commuter down in Newark, Delaware, which was (at the time) one of the most bicycle-friendly cities I had encountered. (A recent essay in Newsweek suggests that it has become less so, which is a pity.) I believe every driver should be required to clock at least 2000 miles of bicycle commuting on city streets and (where permitted) highways before being granted a driver's license.

As a driver who commutes more than 66 miles each day on a major highway in a tiny Toyota Tercel I have also developed some negative opinions of commercial truck drivers. Most of the time truck drivers are safe and courteous - though at times I suspect that such behavior is an indication of the presence of police somewhere. Other times truckers behave with a reckless disregard for the rules of the road, particularly those rules involving speed limits and safe following distances - and, if a construction zone is involved, sometimes both at once. These are times when I remember how, back in the mid-1980's, a car about the size of mine was boxed in and crushed not far from Scranton by a group of trucks during a low-visibility situation. In the fog, they didn't even notice the car.

But as Mr. WBO points out, it's the cars that fill our streets that commit the vast majority of the dangerous daily traffic violations. A friend of mine has had her car in the shop for over a month after it was run over while she was attempting to make a left turn into a parking lot. (The SUV behind her had stopped while she waited for a break in oncoming traffic, but the car behind that one decided to pass the mysteriously stopped SUV by pulling into the path of oncoming traffic. A series of events followed that resulted in him driving up and over the rear left quarter-panel of my friend's Volkswagen, and then driving past her face while on two wheels.) My mom still goes for physical therapy and treatments to deal with the chronic pain she has experienced since her car was T-boned on December 31, 2000 while she was on her way to church. We're not sure where the other driver was going, but apparently he was in enough of a hurry that he couldn't bother to stop at a four-way STOP sign. This was directly in front of my new house, one block from where I witnessed a car-motorcycle crash a few months ago.

So. Go to Wilkes-Barre Online. Read it. Learn it. Live it. And let's be careful out there, OK?


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

You forgot to mention to always wear your seatbelt. I've heard a lot of horror stories from cops and firefighters about what happens to those that don't.

D.B. Echo said...

Whim, unfortunately I just had a secondhand experience of the consequences of forgetting to use this basic safety device:
This past September I drove on the roads where this accident happened, and I rode the section of abandoned turnpike now called the Pike 2 Bike.