Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Be patient and we’ll all get home

By Norm Nyhuis, Trainer / Consultant, Evergreen Safety Council

Every now and then, all drivers see someone else do something so egregious that we say, “I wish there were a policeman around!”   Well, I witnessed such an incident just last week.  

Picture a sunny Friday afternoon and everyone is anxious to get home to start their weekend.  I was traveling south on a two-lane county road at about 3:30 pm.  Traffic was somewhat heavy, and it’s obvious that some drivers are getting impatient with the drivers who are stopping traffic behind them to make a left turn across the on-coming traffic.     

The car ahead of me at an intersection was signaling for a left turn.  From my vantage point, I could see that there were two reasons for the driver ahead of me to wait:

  1. There was on-coming traffic, and 
  2. The first vehicle in line from the opposite direction was a school bus, stopped to drop of kids on their way home from school.  
My pickup has a rather large canopy, so visibility past me is not great.  This was especially true for the driver behind me, who had pulled up so close; I could barely see the top of his head, in the bottom of my rear canopy window.  The bright sunshine in our faces also contributed to the driver not being able to see much past me. 

This impatient driver apparently thought it would be a good idea to let the old fuddy-duddy in the old Ford truck sit there, but s/he had more important things to do.  Using the extra space provided by the intersecting road on the right the driver passed not only me, but the car ahead of me, on the right shoulder.  Not a safe move by any means, but under these circumstances - the driver was past me and nearly past the car ahead of me (the guy signaling to make the left turn) before s/he saw the school bus with stop paddle out and red lights flashing.    Then, amazingly, the driver continued on past the school bus.

Did you know that a school bus driver has the authority to initiate a citation for illegally passing a school bus while it is loading or discharging children? It is a very expensive citation.  In this case, because this was only a two lane roadway, all traffic in both directions must stop until the bus driver retracts the stop paddle and the red lights are no longer flashing. 

Thankful, the school driver’s authority wasn’t needed in this case, because, the car immediately behind the school bus, who saw the entire scenario unfold, was… you guessed it: a County Sheriff’s Deputy.   The blue lights were already flashing as the impatient driver came past him, and after a quick U-turn the Deputy had the impatient driver pulled over about a ¼ mile farther down the road. 

I would have been interested to hear the conversation between the Deputy and the impatient driver:
  1. Improper passing of two vehicles on the right, 
  2. Driving in an area not designated as a lane of travel, 
  3. Passing a school bus discharging children, and 
  4. Who knows what all else.
This could be a very expensive lesson on why all of us need to exercise patience behind the wheel.  

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