I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a perfect driver.
I take corners a little fast, I brake a bit hard, my gear changes aren’t very smooth and I sometimes catch myself forgetting to signal when I make a turn.
But I’ve been driving for almost 20 years now, and my record is pretty good. I’ve driven across the country twice, back and forth between the Midwest and the West Coast a handful of times, and down to the Gulf Coast and back, in addition to the hundreds of of miles I’ve logged just doing daily driving over the years since I got my learner’s permit at the tender age of 15.
During that time, I’ve received exactly two traffic tickets — one for speeding, and one for an expired inspection. And I’ve been the driver in one accident, when my car slipped on an icy turn and went off the road.
So I feel like I am standing on pretty firm ground when I say that most drivers who aren’t me are idiots.
Well, OK, that may be going a bit too far. But, drivers of Oneonta, there are some things we need to talk about.
First up, let’s talk about the intersection of Route 23 and Route 28, on Southside. Imagine you’re facing east (Wendy’s is on your right), getting ready to make a left-hand turn. There you are, sitting in the turn lane. To your left are two lanes of traffic headed toward downtown. Here’s a pop quiz: Which one do you choose?
Let’s take a look at what the driver’s manual says:
“Enter the left lane, to the right of the center line. When traffic permits, you may move out of the left lane.”
This may come as a surprise to the scores of drivers I see turning in to the right-hand lane — much to the consternation of the cars that are waiting to make a right-hand turn into that very same lane. (My favorite was when I saw a police car execute this maneuver.)
It may seem like a little thing, but it’s obnoxious that, if you are one of the lonely few who follows the rules, you have to fight your way over into the right lane against all the drivers behind you who somehow got there first.
And, drivers of Oneonta, let’s talk about stop lines.
Again, to the driver’s manual: “You must come to a stop before the stop line, if there is one.”
Seems pretty straightforward, yes?
And yet, one does not have to travel far in the City of the Hills to see drivers who seem to lack an understanding of this concept.
Take, for example, an intersection near and dear to my heart — Chestnut and West streets, right outside The Daily Star’s offices.
The stop line on West Street facing Chestnut is pretty far back from the intersection, to accommodate buses and other large vehicles making the left turn from Chestnut onto West. Yet nearly every day, I see cars blithely sitting an entire car length or more ahead of the stop line.
One day I came up behind a line of cars waiting at the light. We sat through a few cycles of the light before I realized that the lead car was so far off from the stop line that whatever sensor was needed to get the light to turn would never be triggered. I actually got out of my car, walked up the sidewalk and knocked on the window of the car to tell them what was going on. The driver didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. Fortunately, a pedestrian pushed the crosswalk button moments later, finally getting us the green light we needed.
Now, certainly, there are more serious driving issues than these — people who speed, who drive recklessly, who are distracted or who drive drunk. There’s a reason there are no national public awareness campaigns about stopping before the stop line. We’re not exactly talking about lives at stake.
But, darn it, it’s really annoying.
I realize that by writing this, I’m opening myself up to scrutiny of my own driving habits. Well, I say, bring it on. I’m not perfect and I never said I was. But if you catch me hanging out a full car length in front of the stop line, or turning into the far lane, I deserve whatever reproach you want to hurl at me.
Emily F. Popek is assistant editor of The Daily Star. She can be reached at 432-1000, ext. 217, or firstname.lastname@example.org.