Along for the ride:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fire, Fire! - Get out of the way!

The town I go to every day for work has some history and charm. It is the vibrant County Seat, with traditional domed Court-House, Planning Dept. Jail etc. Lots of business areas with cabinet makers, towing companies and tile stores.
The next small town is purely residential; if you don't have 2 acres don't bother trying to build. It is the place where houses increase in value if they are within walking distance of the Polo Club and where it is not uncommon to be held up for a Presidential motorcade come fund-raising season.
One town serves the other as a place for all the suppliers and purveyors; gardeners and maids. I am a supplier. I am not complaining. I need and, mostly, enjoy this symbiotic relationship. 
We have a section along the main North/South thoroughfare that is Little Mexico. Middlefield  is lined here with Mexican Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Check-Cashing, Cell phone Sales and Gaudy Bridal/Formals with lots of tulle, satin and bright colors. There is one window sign that makes me smile as I wait at the light; I don't do much Spanish but I understand "No Papers, No Credit, No Problem!"
I was headed home recently down this busy 4-lane road and I heard sirens. The Fire Truck was powering along a few hundred yards behind. I checked my other road warriors and heaved-too on the right curb; I was the only one. Four lanes of traffic (2 north-2 south) continued; oblivious to the rules of the road. 
My analysis includes the sad truth that people who go out and purchase I.D. papers and drivers licenses with their first paycheck have never had instruction, nor taken a test. That is one scary thought.
On the same theme; it is purported that one in four drivers here is uninsured. That is not just immigrants but kids and repeat DUI's and people who sign up for insurance just to register their car and then let it lapse instead of making payments. 
A few years ago I suddenly had no brakes and rear-ended an old clunker. When the light changed they drove off. I always assumed they had issues with the law. Why else would you flee?
In California we all pay (those of us who are insured), uninsured motorist premiums. It has come into play for us a couple of times when hit by others; including one car-jacker who was being chased by police. That's a story for another day.
I don't have a solution to offer other than recognizing what a dangerous problem this is. I would prefer to share the road with people who know at least some of the niceties of circulating safely. Miss Manners takes on the Wild West. Defensive Driving is a survival skill.


  1. Love the metaphor below.

    I can remember seeing a little minor accident here in NJ. The area was "horsey" where a lot of mexicans are hired to do stable work. Car #1 stayed in place, as did Car #2, but driver of Car #2 leaped out and simply ran off. He looked like he might have been a young Mexican and I kind of figured he was probably unlicensed. We have similar insurance laws here and really strict penalties for driving offenses.

    Defensive driving is the only way to go around here. Of course, I spend a good part of my "defense" driving along with the cell phone users who "literally" seem to be all over the roads.

    I wrote a play for teens about safe driving. It proved a very powerful statement to those audience members who spoke to me after they saw it. We're performing it again in May, just before Prom. At least, maybe, we can encourage a few kids to learn the rules of the road.

    What to do about the unlicensed and untrained is another kettle of fish altogether. It's just a scary situation.

    Hope the firetruck made it to the emergency in time and safely.

  2. in france, as you know, the info reyour car insurance has to be displayed on your windscreen. and over here, the police can check the MID (motor insurance database) that any car is insured, and if it isn't, they'll have you. we have a Motor Insurers Bureau as well, to which all insurers contribute, and which shells out compensation to people hurt by uninsured drivers.

    we've a huge campaign on here to reduce the incidence of driving uninsured....

    and over here, you don't get a licence until you've done both a theory & a practical driving exam, and they're both hard....they didn't have the theory part when i took mine, many years ago.

    can't believe they didn't know to pull over for an emergency vehicle, you don't have to pass a test to know that!