Fri | Sep 20, 2019

Garth Rattray | Drivers, wait likkle?

Published:Monday | September 9, 2019 | 12:11 AM

When I was in my late teens, I was reluctant to learn to drive. I absolutely loathed the type of selfish and crass behaviour demonstrated by many road users even way back in the 1970s. However, my little sister wanted her driver’s licence, and embarrassment encouraged me to seek mine.

I am always proud to say that our mother taught us to drive. Perhaps it was her gender or her personality or her experience or her maturity, or a combination of them all, but she imparted excellent driving habits to both of us.

Her running commentary was priceless: “You see that guy at that intersection, watch him, he might just come out on you. ”And: “Don’t take that corner so fast and so sharply; it’s better to slow down and control the car.”

However, the one commentary about enduring patience that rings in my ears every single time that I get behind the wheel is: “It’s better to wait a few seconds or even a few minutes than to go and have to wait weeks or months in the hospital, or weeks or months on a repaired or new car.” I apply that gem whenever I feel frustrated at stop signs where no one gives me a chance to get on to the main road; and I also apply it whenever I feel the need to overtake some selfish sloth or lumbering behemoth that just sits there in front of me, seemingly taking eternity to get where he/she is going.

My mother also had another extremely important titbit regarding pedestrians and cyclists. She repeatedly reminded us that we should always let them have the right of way and wait patiently until they eventually get out of our path. “It’s one thing to get frustrated if they get in your way, but it’s another thing if you see them lying dead in front of you.”

Consequently, to this very day, some 45 years after I got my driver’s licence, I always slow down if I see pedestrians, and I do everything to avoid collisions with pedal cyclists and bikers who form the fool on the roads. I just let them go on until they get out of the way all by themselves.

NEED FOR SPEED

Another experience has stayed with me all these years. I had my driver’s licence and was chauffeuring my mother and a very elderly church sister of hers, Ms Anglin, from a function. Being aware of Ms Anglin’s age and of my mother’s presence in the car, I was especially careful and drove very slowly as they chatted. I was shocked when Ms Anglin interrupted their little talk to proclaim that she could not fathom the modern need for so much speed.

I was already going as slow as a bicyclist when she went on to explain herself. “When I was younger, if you needed to go very long distances, you either walked or used a donkey cart. We got where we were going in good time. I can’t understand all this fast driving nowadays!”

We have become so impatient that the hurry is costing many lives every year. I always get riled whenever some perfect idiot sounds his/her horn at me for waiting at an intersection until the way is clear to exit. I hate it when the traffic light turns green and, before my brain can register the change, some fool sounds the horn.

Our roads are teeming with impatient drivers. Instead of waiting a few seconds, they break the law and endanger many lives. If all those who crash or cause crashes had the opportunity to go back in time, they would slow down and wait. Why not wait likkle now and save lives?

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.