Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not Everyone is Paying Attention

I used to work in car insurance, and during those three relatively short years of claims, questions, and fact-finding, it was drilled into me that drivers should drive as much for others as they do for themselves.

Sadly, most people drive for themselves, which is not so difficult a task considering the capsule-like environments within respective vehicles. "Nothing can get to me; I'm in my protected capsule-like environment." Such thinking can lead to the worst acquired habits and the most avoidable of accidents.

You've probably had someone slow down abruptly in front of you before making a right turn into a driveway. Their argument might be that they were slowing down; it should be obvious to others that they'd be making a right turn. But that's what the right turn signal is for, no? You can't always tell someone that, but it's true. Use your signals, and you'll be seen. Lesson learned is that one should never assume that people are going to see you, even if you are doing all you can as a driver. Not everyone is paying attention.

This is where it leads to cycling. The other day I rode my bicycle in traffic, heading to meet my mother for lunch. With a bright red backpack strapped to my back and a fair parallel distance away from cars parked next to the curb, one would think that I'd be visible to most anyone on the road in broad daylight. I was doing everything right.

Well, chalk it up to a driver in a champagne-colored minivan to "not see me" when attempting a right turn, nearly crashing into me from behind. My question is this: If not weaving in and out between parked cars, wearing dark clothing, or whatever the case may be, how do you almost hit someone in front of you unless you're not paying attention?

"And I'd like to thank God for my reflexes..."

If you have an abrupt reaction to a cyclist following the rules of the road in Los Angeles of all places, then it's quite likely that you were not paying attention.

In the last month, I've been a driver, cyclist, and pedestrian, sometimes all in one day. No matter the mode of transportation, though, the most important rule to follow is to make sure you're seen. Signals, bright colors, moving with traffic in a straight line. Still, I can't forget the saying that goes, "I'd rather be alive and wrong than dead and right."

What happens if you were doing everything right? What more can be done?

Any thoughts?

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