Our three grown children love their home town; two of them have moved back. All three have the same reaction to what used to seem like a sleepy town on a peninsula, far from the main highways:
Drivers are nuts.
The back streets, where our children walked to school and some of our grandchildren now walk, have become obstacle courses for drivers that run stop signs, tailgate, speed, make turns without signaling, and other dangerous moves.
I hasten to add, the offenders are not some mysterious “them,” outsiders new to the ways of suburbia or America. The enemy is us – commuters and other locals, mostly in the physical prime of life, trying to control mammoth vans and SUVs, with one hand on a cup of coffee, the other hand on a smartphone. (That adds up to two occupied hands.)
I recently did a stint, driving a family member to an early train for a month or so. Heading toward the station in the morning is worth your life, with drivers exhibiting white-line fever, fearing they will miss the last available parking space in town. Drivers would speed around you as your passenger disembarked. Many of the drivers do not seem to be making eye contact, or looking at anything in particular. They are just in panic mode.
Is it Ebola, or ISIS, or the stock market, or looming college tuition, or general anxiety that none of us will be able to meet the shocking taxes and expenses of living in a nice Long Island suburb?
It’s not just family members that feel this way. I was waiting to cross a main street the other day, when a 30-ish driver made a dangerous left turn across two lanes of oncoming traffic. The crossing guard and I shook our heads. She grew up in town. Things are different these days, she said.
The crossing guards do their best. The guards based near the post office are great at screaming at dangerous offenders, making them stop and listen to a lecture. Good for them. They are standing up for their town. But they are dealing with drivers who seem to have grown up thinking the rules do not apply to them.
The other day I saw a welcome sight – an unmarked car, parked unobtrusively, with a radar gun outside the driver’s window, monitoring the main street, not far from where a pedestrian got run down and killed a few months ago.
Dropping the speed limit from 30 to 25 would be a good idea, too. But I’m not sure our pre-occupied new breed, on their smartphones, would notice.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.