THUNDER BAY – OPINION – It has taken a few months to finally sit down at the keyboard after James Murray offered me the chance to contribute to NetNewsLedger. So, what topics can be covered. Well policing and politics for sure, the environment and even doctor training in Ontario for a start. I also hope to discuss topics that will cause people to consider a different viewpoint, something that I believe is sorely lacking today. Some of the topics may anger but if you cannot discuss issues from both sides, change is fleeting. Compromise, specifically political compromise is the lifeblood of any democratic society. No one person or group can ever get all that they want but that is often glossed over in the quest to achieve perfection. I hope to push the idea of debate and discussion forward on some hot button topics.
I have long believed that one of the most serious challenges facing this city is the lack of accountable reporting on issues that too often do not get the coverage they need.
Topics often receive a 15 second blurb because that is people’s attention span. I had a front row seat for twenty years with my brother in politics and knowing what was happening compared to what was often reported was frustrating. That political slants existed in our local media should be obvious to everyone.
I believe it is incumbent on any media organization to educate, and when there two or three sides to an issue, all sides need to be reported accurately and fairly. Locally however, it seems that the resources to do this are often not there. James has written a number of those kinds of articles, but it is hard for one person to carry that mantel. I will attempt in my own way to support some of his efforts.
But for my first article, I thought I keep it light and tell you about a guy named “Steve”.
In Ontario, the legislation that covers vehicle traffic, traffic lights and signs, etc is called the Highway Traffic Act. It outlines the laws and regulations that govern our roads and highways. Contained within the act is a tiny little section that only applies to “Steve” who certainly had a great deal of clout with the authors of this legislation because they give Steve great latitude in how he can drive. Let me give you a few examples.
When you are at an intersection turning left onto a road with two lanes in each direction, you must turn into the centre lane, not the curb lane. This does not apply with the double turn lanes that allow for turning into the curb lane. You can receive a ticket for turning into the curb lane even though most never do unless your failure to do so causes an accident. But Steve, he can turn into whatever lane he wants even if he cuts off the vehicle legally turning right into the curb lane. I am sure many of you have seen Steve do this because the traffic laws do not apply to Steve. If you are turning right, you are required to turn into the curb lane, but again not Steve because Steve may need to turn left 8 blocks up the road. It is good to be Steve who I see all the time when driving around the city.
Let’s suppose you are traveling on the area highway heading from Arthur St up to County Fair Plaza. Now the signs on the highway say stay in the right lane except to pass but not Steve. He can stay in the centre lane the whole time. It doesn’t matter that he is forcing all of the cars moving faster to pass him in the curb lane, that centre lane is Steve’s and he can stay there as long as he wishes. The line-up of vehicles behind Steve are not important. Steve is turning left in six miles so everyone else can just wait.
I often see Steve on Highway 61. No matter what direction Steve is going, the parade of cars behind him are always there. If Steve wants to travel 65 to 70 kph and cars are passing him when they shouldn’t be (a too common occurrence), Steve doesn’t have to give it a second thought. If they wanted to be in front of Steve, they should have left a few seconds earlier. This is Steve’s road and Steve gets to set the pace for everyone else on the highway.
Asking Steve to assist in allowing people to pass, pulling over to the shoulder to let people by safely, or heaven forbid increasing speed is not up to Steve. All those other people are the problem. And don’t you just love it when Steve waits and waits and waits before pulling out in front of you on the highway so that you now must hit your brakes, often forcefully. That is classic Steve. The best thing about the guy, almost every time I am behind him, he manages to speed up at the passing lane.
Did you know that when making a turn, Steve is allowed to move over to his left or right encroaching on the other lanes to make his turn easier. You must have seen Steve move over into the centre lane to make his right turn easier. How about those other times when you are approaching a red light and someone is turning left towards you but instead of turning into their lane, they cut into your lane forcing you to brake. That was Steve.
Now what about traffic lights. Yellow means speed up and Red, well that only applies to everyone else. I can’t tell you how many times as a police officer I stopped Steve for a red light only to have Steve tell me it wasn’t really red.
Ever see Steve change lanes near a ramp as you are attempting to merge into that lane and then look at you like you were the fool. Or when Steve enters the ramp and just stops despite ample time to merge effectively keeping traffic flowing. A classic Steve move is to see someone wanting to change lanes but he speeds up to block the opening.
Steve also loves to block the access to other roads or entrances to businesses while stopped at a traffic light. Some people stop to allow the vehicle in the opposite direction the opening to make their turn, but that’s not Steve’s thing. And the person that changed lanes at the last second at the red light, so they move one car up causing you to slam on your brakes. Yeap, that was Steve.
Our community has enough problems with traffic given our disastrous traffic light system. Not following the basics of safe driving only makes things worse. When you drive six miles in the centre lane because you are turning left at some point, you are blocking the flow of traffic and increasing the risk of accidents. If you see someone speeding up from behind, make it easier for them to pass, not harder. Would you rather they pass you when it is safe or when they have grown so frustrated, they pass on a hill or a curve. Their fault for sure, but that is little comfort when that car coming towards you may veer into your lane.
Our police service is so overwhelmed by the demands of this city that having officers do basic traffic monitoring has become a luxury. Driving does appear to be getting worse in part because of the vast numbers of people I see on their phones and the increase in vehicle ownership. Oh, how I wish I could still give out tickets for phones, but that problem and possible solution will be for another article.
If you recognize Steve in yourself, I hope that you will be more in tune with what is required and even expected of you when you are behind the wheel. The accident you avoid, may be someone you know.
As my first foray I wanted to speak to a topic that is not often covered. So again, if you see yourself make the correction yourself. The life you save, may be your own. Just a thought.
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