05 February 2007
One day last week as I was driving home from school, I looked at the left shoulder of the road to see a little furry body poised to cross the street at the best time. There was not a soul on the half mile stretch in front of me, with no cars in sight behind me. Crossing the road is the Russian roulette of the animal world - they don't really have the sense to look both ways and think critically about whether to go right now or after the next car passes. Well, this little bunny sized up the situation and decided to take off across the highway when I was about 30 feet away - close enough that I felt like I saw the moment of decision in the bunny's eyes. Fortunately, the bunny ran fast and I slowed down a little bit, so it made it whole to the other side. I drove on thinking, "No wonder there's so much roadkill on this street - they just don't know how to wait for the right moment."
I feel sorry for the animals that lurch unthinkingly into the path of automobiles traveling 70 mph. But they aren't the only ones who do that on FM 600. The people who live on FM 600 are even worse! Regardless of the ample space behind on-coming cars, they feel the need to pull out directly in front of any one who's coming. Sometimes I think they just don't look. Like the rabbit on the shoulder, you get close enough to see the moment of decision in their eyes and "body" language. You begin to mutter, "Don't do it," but before the warning has fallen from your lips they've already pulled into the driving lane at a snail's pace. You slam on your brakes and they look up into the rearview mirror in surprise as if to say, "Oh, I didn't see you there." (How near-sighted are you?!)
I wonder what goes through their minds. "Sure, my 20 year-old, beat-up farm truck can go from 0 to 70 in 5 seconds." Or maybe, "There's just enough space for that person to slam on their brakes before coming through my back windshield. Perfect - I can go." How about: "It's my personal responsibility to make sure that every person on this road is on his or her toes." Or maybe it's more apathetic: "Looking both ways and waiting for on-coming cars to pass is so over-rated." Perhaps it's Calvinism at its most extreme: "There's no point in looking before I pull out - if God wants me to live, I'll live." But I think it's probably more like this: "Zzzzzzzzz..."
Whatever these drivers are thinking (or not thinking), one thing's for certain: they have the same level of defensive driving skills as potential roadkill. Really, folks, let's up the standards here!