Motorists need to slow down along our narrow mountainous roads

Charles Owens

I like to consider myself a defensive driver. It’s not that I’m paranoid about driving or anything like that. It is simply a matter of trying to avoid other reckless drivers on the roadway.

I’ll use an evening from last week as an example. Within a short span of about one hour, a vehicle operated by what appeared to be a teenager approached my lane of traffic in a shopping center parking lot, and for a few seconds it appeared as if he was not going to change directions. I had to honk my horn to get his attention, otherwise he would have hit me.

Leaving the same shopping center, I watched a vehicle in a lane beside of me run a red light. It was one of those situations where the light was yellow for a few seconds, and then turned red. But red still means stop. I stopped for the red light. He didn’t. Then, only a few minutes from my home destination, a vehicle passed me on a double line. That is still illegal by the way. And no, I wasn’t driving slow. So there was no reason for that driver to pass me. 

In fact, I have lost count of the number of times so far this summer that I’ve had to swerve, slow down, honk the horn and even come to a complete stop to avoid another driver. In most instances, the other vehicle is simply driving too fast for our mountainous roads. Some will often cross the center line, forcing you to swerve to the left or right to avoid them. It’s very frustrating.

Sometimes I think people drive poorly just for spite. Take for example those individuals who choose to ride your bumper. What other logical explanation is there?

You know they are just gunning to pass you. And it doesn’t matter how fast you are driving, it’s not fast enough for them. 

But what if I’m driving slower for a reason? What if I’m trying to locate a certain address or roadway? It’s a little hard to do that when there is an agitated driver behind you riding your bumper.

Another common problem are those motorists who suddenly make a left or right turn without giving a signal.

I’m almost certain that the law states that we are still required to give a turn signal when we are stopping and making a turn. It shouldn’t matter if we are stopping to turn onto another road, street, driveway or even into a residential area. We should still activate our turn signals in advance to let other motorist know that we are preparing to stop and change lanes.

Sadly, there are a lot of people out there who apparently no longer feel the need to use the turn signals in their vehicles. They simply stop at the last minute and turn without warning. This too creates a dangerous situation for other motorists.

And, of course, you still have those motorists who bright light you (perhaps intentionally?) at night.

Just because it is dark outside, that doesn’t mean you can automatically ignore the posted speed limits. And bright lighting the vehicle in front of you will normally result in that vehicle slowing down as opposed to speeding up. So please don’t tailgate and bright light the vehicle in front of you.

I give a signal well in advance so that the motorist behind me — bright lights on and all — will understand that I will soon be pulling off of the main road into a private driveway. Sometimes the driver behind me will then finally slow down, but others will continue to tailgate — apparently oblivious to the fact that I will soon be slowing down and executing a turn off the main road.

I wish folks across the region would just exercise a little bit of common sense when behind the wheel of a vehicle — that includes not talking on the telephone, and worse yet, texting while driving. But I see this every day, as well. Sometimes people will pull out right in front of you without looking, or ignore a posted stop sign. In many of these instances I notice that they are talking on a cellphone. But a motorist who is in the middle of an intense telephone conversation while driving is also a distracted driver.

Texting while driving is a whole different beast. You can normally notice a motorist who is texting while driving by the fact that the vehicle is swerving and generally being operated in an erratic fashion. If you have to text, or respond to a text message, it’s best just to pull off the side of the road. Normally, most text messages can wait for a response until you reach your intended destination.

There is nothing wrong with driving safely. I wish more people would exercise greater caution while on the road. Our narrow, mountainous roads were not made for drag racing. Just slow down and be respectful of other drivers that you are sharing the road with. 

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline. Follow him @BDTOwens.