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More on Right of Way

Two "incidents" this morning have me thinking about right of way again.

First, I'm about to make a left turn into the parking garage, but I see an SUV about to make a right turn into the garage from the opposite direction.  We were both there at the same time, but I am a left-turner and he is a right-turner.  I stop, because the right of way is his.  He stops, presumably because he is too stupid to realize that the right of way is his.  We are both stopped there for several seconds before I decide, "The hell with him!  I'm going."  It's not that I didn't want to jump in front of him and beat him into the garage; it's that I wasn't entitled to do so.

Second, I'm waiting to cross the street on foot to get from the parking garage to my office.  I am not at the crosswalk.  An ambulance stops to let me cross.  I ignore him.  He flashes his headlights.  I pretend not to see him.  He finally revs his engine loudly and takes off.  The traffic light turns red, traffic stops, and I cross the street.

I don't consider myself an overly legalistic person, but there are reasons for right of way rules.  There is enough craziness and stupidity in traffic as it is.  Traffic controls such as traffic lights and stop signs help reduce the craziness a little bit.  In the absence of such controls, right of way rules further help to impose a little structure on traffic.

By ceding one's right of way, one unilaterally decides that one's conception of traffic patterns is better than the generally accepted patterns developed over the last century.  The result is usually a negative, not a positive.  By stopping to let me turn in front of him, the SUV forced me to hold up traffic on my side of the street longer than necessary.  By stopping to allow me to cross the street, the ambulance created congestion behind him and forced a few cars to miss the light.  Their stupid little acts of generosity caused headaches for others.  If each car had simply done as the right of way rules dictate, traffic would have flowed smoothly without needless aggravation to any third party.

It's bad enough that we have assholes ignoring the rules of the road.  We don't need nice people inadvertently adding to the confusion as well.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2003 01:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, I find people who insist in giving up the right of way even more annoying (but slightly less dangerous) than those who insist on taking it when it doesn't belong to them. I am often a rule breaker (and an icon breaker) when I find a rule that serves no purpose, but I'm probably more aware of traffic rules than most people. I haven't missed a question on a written test for driver's license in California since our return here (I study the rule book each time before taking the test) and I only missed a few on the tests in Panamá because the rule books and tests were so badly written as to be meaningless. (I'll leave my rant about cops in banana republics inventing laws on the spot for another day.) California used to have a speed limit on the freeway described as "safe and proper" with no numeric value given. I have driven vehicles on roads and under conditions where the safest and most comfortable speed was between 85 and 90: a Porsche 911, a straight, smooth desert road, unlimited visibility and nearly zero traffic. But that was four decades ago, days that are gone forever.

Gee, I seem to have drifted from the topic.

I take the right of way when it is mine, disputing it if somebody else tries to claim it but only to the point of making them aware I know they have transgressed, never to the point of creating a hazard. I will give up the right of way when it belongs to another, even if we sit there blocking traffic until he gives in and takes it, unless I receive some signal that he willingly forfeits that right. If they are old enough to be driving a car, I figure they are beyond my ability to educate and make no effort in that direction.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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