I heard from a reader regarding my recent rant against hideously self-absorbed drivers who ignore traffic rules and put the rest of us at risk. This gentleman put forth a different point of view, and one that I hear (different words/same message) often lately:
“People break the rules because in many cases the rules are wrong or misguided. For example, stop signs are in places where visibility is clear for a long way. Yield signs would do. Same problem with four-way stop signs. Traffic lights are mistimed or favor left turns where it is obviously not needed. Low speeds are posted where unnecessary. All of these wear out brakes and waste gas. What’s really needed: better driver training at high speeds, and collision avoidance.”
Yikes. I appreciate my readers. But I can’t stand this “there’s good reason to break the rules” mentality some folks impart. I’m pretty sure these people aren’t traffic engineers, and I’m certain they’ve not troubled themselves to learn much about traffic flow during rush hour and crash numbers at locations where they think idiotic traffic-calming decisions have been made.
Moreover, I think breaking traffic rules is a little like stealing: the first time it’s hard, and you sweat and fret, but after that, it seems like something minor, and the behavior escalates.
Moreover, there are often kids in the car when these people run red lights or cruise through stop signs. So they’re raising another generation of know-it-alls who think they get to make their own choices about whether to follow traffic rules (or any other rules, for that matter, though that’s an entirely different column).
Are some stop signs in stupid places? Sure. Are posted speed limits excessively slow in some stretches? No doubt. There are ways to work through the system and get those things changed if gaining that 11 seconds is so vital.
But I don’t think any of this is about a particular foolishly placed stop sign. I think it’s about constructing a “they’re all idiots” point of view so one can do whatever one wants and offer no excuses to anyone.
Can we please all just acknowledge we can’t possibly have all the answers, and follow traffic rules even if they seem dumb?
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