The afternoon I am writing this I was southbound on Mitchell Road approaching 99 after the Service Road intersection. This happens to be where the craziest jockeying for positions occurs in the Ceres driving world as the freeway looms into view.
Unless you are a stranger to Ceres, everyone knows that if you plan to go onto southbound 99, you line up in the left lane and if you're going northbound then stay to the right. There is some ability to maneuver past the Service Road intersection but it's not a legal option, once the white lane has appeared, to pretend you're going north when your intent all along is to pull a last-minute lane change to the left to beat everybody else out. The little white lane that separates the two lanes says you cannot do that. Moving across the line is not legal. It's a line of protection.
So minutes ago, two vehicles are in the right lane aimed toward the northbound freeway onramp while I'm in the left lane headed straight for the southbound onramp. Remember, there is that solid white line between us. But, silly me, I assumed they were actually going to abide by the law and head to the northbound onramp. Without warning - AKA no blinker - a black car starts whipping out in front of me and cuts me off. I honk at the double violation as I swerve around the violator of my right of way.
I can see how road rage is birthed. Crazy moves make for crazy drivers.
Seconds later a white van does the same thing to me - only more last minute - like it was all an afterthought or she was playing chicken with the upcoming light pole. No blinker. No lawful maneuver. I laid on my horn in perpetuity to the offense, which was a long one. Once on the freeway, I wanted a face to go with the actions of an idiot so I looked; she gave me no expression of remorse. In fact, she's oblivious to her bad driving skills as the young lady pulls another no-no. I'm in the #1 lane and she's in the slow lane, riding in the blind spot of a center lane big-rig.
Folks, we have driving laws for a reason. They are so we all live to be senior citizens.
My son remarks frequently how no one seems to use blinkers any more. I notice it too.
I'm not sure if it's because high schoolers aren't offered driver's training like I was in high school and have to resort to the mythical Montgomery Ward license process. I'm not sure if it's the 9 million illegal aliens who are unfamiliar with U.S. rules of the road. I'm not sure if it's the driving-with-the-head-up-the-rear crowd of legal residents. I'm not sure if it's because video games like Grand Theft Auto don't even have blinkers on their game cars. The cynic in me, however, says it's because most people today are so self-centered that it doesn't dawn on them to use blinkers as signaling is essentially a favor to other people. God forbid we do other people any favors.
But it's not just blinkers that went the way of the dinosaur. Good manners and good grammar, not to mention spelling which is slaughtered in this age of texting and Instagram, are gone. I mean, who types "you" when "u" will do in a text?
When you think about it, good grammar, spelling and blinkers are really a discipline and, let's face it, few people have discipline.
Just like the blinker, the comma is not optional. The blinker is written into the law. The comma is written in the law of language. Like the blinker, the comma was abandoned long ago despite it being extremely important. A comma can make all the difference in the world: "Let's eat grandpa" versus "Let's eat, grandpa." Or this medical slip-up: "Unable to eat diarrhea" as opposed to the correct use of "Unable to eat, diarrhea."
If the comma is important, blinkers are even more so. They let other drivers know what moves - even illegal ones - you're going to make that could affect life and limb so they can plan accordingly. According to a study by The Society of Automotive Engineers, drivers either neglect to use their signals when changing lanes - or fail to turn the signals off - 48 percent of the time. When making a turn, around 25 percent of drivers expect the rest of us to be mind-readers. That works out to 2 billion times a day drivers fail to use signals, or 750 billion times annually. The survey concludes that turn signal neglect in the United States causes about two million crashes per year. Chew that one over as you're grumbling about the high cost of auto insurance premiums.
Blinkers are also about courtesy. So if I'm going 45 mph in the number one lane and you decide - in your lack of planning ahead - that you are about to make a bone-jarring lane change so you can get in the left turn lane at the expense of my brakes and sanity - you had best use your darn blinker. (And I'm holding back on "darn.")
Turn signal use is not optional; the law requires their use for lane changes and turns. If the blinker is broken, use the arm signals. Does anyone remember those?
I suppose, though, that failure to use blinkers is no different than other courtesies I don't see being extended to others. There's the driver who sees a yellow light and thinks it means travel at warp speed rather than brake. Then there are the people who text and use their smart phones as they're driving their 2,000-pound missile down the horizontal skies. Just yesterday I saw a woman swing from my right broadly across all lanes of traffic behind me to get in the left turn lane in last-minute fashion. She had a cell phone up to her ear.
One survey suggests 23 percent of all drivers don't use blinkers because they are "too lazy." When I think of all the actions we do in a day, activating a blinker rates up there about as strenuous as breathing.
The no blinker crowd might be the same ones who think it's too much work to vote or hold down a job. Or perhaps they are the ones who elect the politicians who believe in taxing the heck out of the rich and middle class in order to hand it to the ones who are too lazy to use blinkers or work.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org