Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Driving 101 Refresher for San Franciscans

Yesterday I saw the most ridiculous accident of my life in front of the Jackson St. Safeway. For those unfamiliar with the location, the street side is lined with metered spaces, and as with most parallel parking spots that are metered, these are marked off on the street. So depending on how large a car is and where it's located in a spot, an available space can be quite generous.

In this particular occasion, the space in question was surrounded by cars that were a good five feet away. The car behind the spot was a white Mazda MPV, which I noticed because this was the family vehicle when I was a wee five years old. The car that pulled into the 25 foot spot in front of it was a tan GMC truck with covered bed.

This one I noticed after hearing the jarring screech of it taking the bumper off the van. At first I couldn't believe that a truck pulling into a spot twice its length could have done that, but the dent in its side confirmed that this was indeed the case.

This is the second accident I've witnessed in the Financial District in two weeks. The other was a white Lexus SUV that took off the front of a smart car at the intersection of Broadway and Battery. Due to this unusual number of accidents I've recently witnessed, after the jump are my way-too-obvious, but apparently relevant recommendations for better driving.

Should note that even though the post was spawned by the atrocities committed by San Francisco drivers, this helpful guide is applicable to drivers everywhere. Anyway, here we go:

1. PAY ATTENTION. USE COMMON SENSE. OBEY TRAFFIC SIGNS. This is the most important and obvious rule from which all the following corollaries come. For some reason, it seems to be near impossible for many people to be aware of what's going on around them. Just take a second and think about what you're doing. If the action you're about to perform could be potentially dangerous or cause an accident, don't do it!

2. TURN SIGNALS. I don't know if this as applicable elsewhere, but it seems like everybody in San Francisco has decided to stop using them. This is rather unfortunate, as turn signals are actually one of the most important parts of driving safety. They indicate if you'll be turning, which way you'll go when you turn, switch lanes, or change direction in general. When used appropriately, they save everyone a lot of frustration in trying to guess where you're going.

3. DON'T CROSS LANES OF TRAFFIC TO MAKE A TURN. If you realize that you're going to miss a turn, be safe and wait til you get to the next intersection to turn. It's not that hard or time consuming to get back to the street you missed, and you won't have to worry about killing anyone in the process.

4. DOUBLE PARKING. Yes, I understand that there is very little parking space in this densely populated city, and you don't want to spend an hour looking for a spot when you just need to make a quick run into the store or are waiting to pick someone up. I also realize that you probably won't get ticketed for it, but it really sucks for everyone else who's driving on that road. If you're so unabashed about parking illegally, please do so in a bus stop, in front of a fire hydrant or crosswalk, or somewhere else not in a lane of traffic.

5. DON'T TEXT OR TALK ON THE PHONE. It is more dangerous than driving drunk. And don't drive drunk either. Just get a freaking cab. Or walk. Or better monitor your alcohol intake, a.k.a. be responsible.

6. COMMON COURTESY. There are certain niceties expected when on the road commonly referred to as the 'right-of-way.' Like when at a four-way stop sign, if the car goes in front of you goes, that means you have to wait for cars crossing the other way to go before it's your turn. And you need to check to see if there are vehicles at the other sides of the intersection. Your not paying attention and not seeing those people who need to cross does not give you the right to go. Yes, bikes count as vehicles.

Also, when waiting to turn left at a stoplight, wait for the vehicles coming the opposite direction to get through the intersection before you can go. Cutting off an oncoming vehicle is not just a dick move, it could very likely cause an accident. Again, remember that you're sharing the road with bikes and they count as vehicles too.

Ok, I'm done. I would like to wrap up with a very heartfelt thanks to all the drivers out there who are courteous and considerate and pay attention to what's going on. You can't imagine how much I appreciate it. We need more people like you on the roads.

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