Reader laments unthinking drivers

... Biggest gripe: Failing to use turn signals

by Don Norris

Times do change, sometimes for the worse. Humanity progresses, populations continue to grow, and the world has become a crowded place, especially on our highways.

There was a time when I, as a junior at Melrose High, was about the only kid in school who drove a car to school. The time was 1947, and my car was my older brother's -- a gorgeous 1931 Model A Ford convertible with leather seats. It was built the year I was born.

Today, parking space at MHS -- tripled from what it was then -- comes at a premium. It appears that lots and lots of kids have access to four wheels. I hear that seniors are the only students allowed to park on that hallowed ground.

Switch dates to 2012. I was driving my 10-year-old cherry Buick to Lahey Clinic in Burlington last week, using all back roads rather than face the rat race on I-93 and 128. To pass the time, I started counting the number of drivers who use their turn signals in suburbia, and to my surprise, I discovered that only 30 per cent of the drivers in front of me used signals to turn. That's about one in three who use what I consider to be essential in learning how to drive. Worse yet, there were several trucks in that 30 percent whose drivers can be counted on to indicate where they're going -- by signaling.

Some half of that 30 percent used their directionals wrongly: they drove up to the red light or the stop sign, stopped, and when the traffic moved again, they switched on their turn indicator: "Hey look, I'm turning." Most signalers use directional lights this way.

So, at a meeting of the board -- the Mirror publishers -- on a Wednesday afternoon, I asked that they fill out a short questionaire on signaling. Average age of the group was probably 67 -- i.e., experienced drivers. I found out these facts:

All but two of them (both males) exceed highway speed limits by ten miles an hour. One said he hits 80 on the interstate, at night. All confessed that they come to a full stop at stop signs -- except one, who said he comes to a rolling stop. All said yes to being aware of any cars behind them -- i.e., they use their rear-view mirrors.

Pretty good, so far. We have only one scofflaw. Everyone said they make an effort to slow down to posted 20mph in school zone.

Ironically, all drivers buy gasoline at different stations -- some in town, others out on the highway, Route 1. Only one uses a station with discount prices.

How often do you use your horn?: "Hardy ever" most said, uniformly -- except our scofflaw, who said 'occasionally'. He is somewhat of an impatient person.

Here's one that surprises: All said they use their rear-mirrors regularly, except one. He said "occasionally." So far I would say that the editors of the Melrose Mirror are a pretty safe bet -- at least while driving.

All said that they stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.

Ages of the group ranged from 65 to 83. The average years of driving was 59. One learned to drive in Florida at the age of 14, has driven (and raced) motorcycles most of his adult life.

Three admitted to having been ticketed -- a total 12 times, altogether -- but all of them said that they are "a good driver".

Do YOU use your signals? That is, before you arrive at your turn?

November 2, 2012

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