WTF Driving

Right-On-Red

©2013 James Montgomery Studios

This is about driving and driving I have observed.  No, sorry, this isn’t an entry extolling the virtues of getting the slowpokes out of the left lane.  Yes, the slowpokes and the mesmerized should get out of the left lane, but that is an argument too often made by those who want some version of an American autobahn and don’t give a damn about speed limits.  I am not on-board with those folks.  I favor following the law – especially speed limits – and if a state has a “slow traffic to the right” rule, similar to the German autobahn fahr rechts custom, then that should be observed.  However a passing lane is not a drive-however-the-hell-fast-you-want lane.

This isn’t about that.

This is about “right on red”.

Now, to take you back on this subject, from my personal experience, I will tell you that I grew up in the rather smallish town of Florence, Alabama.  For what the town lacks in population or economic opportunities, it more than makes up for in traffic lights.  I first took notice of the “right on red” signs in the late 60’s in Florence.  It was a rather novel idea that someone could stop at the light and, if the way was clear, go ahead and turn right against the red.  I didn’t know how many other cities had this rule, but it wasn’t a universally accepted concept, so there were signs hanging from the power lines at each intersection where “right on red” was permitted.

Over time, the idea that one could turn on any red, providing it was safe to do so, caught on and there was no problem that I ever saw in doing that.  In fact, the use of the “right on red” sign was no longer needed – people understood the concept – and the signs were now being used to tell drivers when it was not permitted.  “Right on red” had done a 180° turn from the days when it was a curious privilege.

Now to the present day and driving in my current residence of Florence, South Carolina (funny how that Florence-to-Florence thing works in social situations!).  I didn’t think much about driving or drivers when I first moved to South Carolina until I saw my driving insurance rates.  You see, Florence, Alabama, had the reputation of having one of the highest insurance rates in the state.  Whether that was true or not was irrelevant because there is a collection of really bad drivers there.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that my insurance rate went up upon my arrival in South Carolina!  How could the driving be worse?

Well, the driving isn’t worse, but I have noticed an occurrence that happens with disturbing frequency: too many people here don’t seem to get the whole “right on red” thing!  I mean drivers will just sit there, blinker flashing (which is unusual in itself), no traffic coming from the other direction, and they will just sit there!  Sometimes giving them the horn doesn’t faze them!  What the hell is going on with these folks?  I could understand (somewhat) if the drivers were old, but they aren’t; these are people who grew up with “right on red” and should know better than what they are doing.  I don’t know if they are too chicken to stick their necks out there or distracted drivers playing with their phones when they should be paying attention, but it’s selfish behavior and it pisses me off!  If you are on the road, you have an obligation to drive the way you’re supposed to drive.  If you are at a red light turning right and the way is clear, GO!  There is no excuse.

I’ve been to Spain, Japan, South Korea, and various places in the U.S. and bad driving is a worldwide phenomenon (I think Russians take the prize, though!)  The thing that gets under my skin about this is that it is just so damn unnecessary.  If you’re going to drive, don’t be stupid!  There are enough problems with driving that you don’t have to start creating situations that will just waste time and raise tempers.  If these drivers don’t understand the concept of “right on red”, what else about driving do they not understand?  I really don’t want to find out.

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