Courtesy and Recklessness

I made a mistake today while driving home from work. I stopped short of an intersection to let another car in to traffic. The traffic in front of me was stopped and had little hope of moving within a couple of minutes. The minivan was trying to enter from the side street, one typically jammed with traffic during the end-of-day rush hour.

I broke my own rule.

I *never* let people out from side streets because of what happened next. From far behind me in traffic, a driver decided that they couldn’t wait for the normal flow of traffic. They pulled in to the center “turn” lane and proceeded the 300-500 feet to my intersection, accelerating in order to make the left turn signal only 500 more feet to my north.

In the meantime, the nice lady that I let out in front of me failed to see the rapidly oncoming car (moving at nearly 40MPH by this point) because she was looking for traffic coming for the right. My eye moved to the expected impact point, wincing as part of the process. It was a near miss.

I won’t soon forget the mental snapshot. The speeding car was a light metallic green 1996 Honda Accord 4 door that served quickly to the left, then right, dodging the nose of the 2007 Chrysler Pacifica. The distance separating the cars was no more than 12 inches. Watching the cars pass at that close of a distance was shocking. I immediately turned to the person in the driver’s seat of the Pacifica and realized that she had not realized the danger. Her car was still creeping ahead during the incident and her expression (and body language) did not change until the car passed into her field of vision. Remember, she was looking to the right and from her perspective, the danger car was passing from left to right.

She was 12 inches from disaster and didn’t know it until the danger passed. The thought was sobering. How many times in your life do you let your awareness of your environment pass without a thought? For that matter, how many times each day are you moving without thinking?

Driving a car always requires attention, no matter what you tell yourself and no matter what the circumstances. While no-one was hurt, the incident served its purpose and reminded me of the dangers in everyday life. Don’t wait for an accident to remind you.