Driving is a privilege, not a right. I know this statement pisses a lot of people off – but it doesn’t make it any less true. If you are driving a car, and not paying attention to the world around you, you are a danger to those in it. A car, when driven safely, is an opportunity of independence. When you’re driving a car, impervious to the world around you – your expression of independence can take someone else’s away.
The lights and signals of the traffic around you are meant to help you safely navigate within the world in a safe manner. They aren’t there to slow you down, or piss you off. They are there to try to mitigate the flow of humanity in various forms. Not all signals are for cars. Some are there specifically for pedestrians, cyclists, first response vehicles — I’ve even seen a lit crossing specifically for horse and rider! The ones on non-major intersections seem to be overlooked the most – and therefore the most dangerous.
You should be looking out. Double check the corners for pedestrians at lights before taking a turn, look out for smaller vehicles, motorcycles, horses, bicycles, people walking their dogs, runners, walkers, etc. Watch for warning lights, flashing lights, and persons in orange roadside worker vests.
You should also be listening out. Sirens, especially. I’m pretty sure that it is not legal in most states for the driver to have headphones or earphones on. Blaring radios can also keep drivers from hearing the sirens.
The driver isn’t the only one to bear responsibility for paying attention. If you are on the road, or even near it, you need to watch out! You can never assume that the other person sees you. Everyone needs to pay attention, but I loose count on how many near misses I have been witness to, and have forever seared into my brain the few times that it wasn’t a miss. The motorcyclist who was weaving in traffic at speeds far exceeding the speed of surrounding traffic…… The woman walking her unleashed dog next to a major thoroughfare….. The runner who was running across major streets with earphones…… The cyclist who had a heart attack, and cars weren’t clear enough when he fell over…..
Please, just pay attention to the world around you in the hopes we can all make it to the next sunrise.