We rattle on at length about the stupid, illegal things people do while they’re driving. What about the stupid legal – or debatably and/or grey area legal – things that people do?
- I’ve watched this one happen more than once, and it’s always like a telegraphed slow motion train wreck. You can see it coming. In bumper to bumper traffic in lousy weather, someone will be speeding along in the HOV lane. Yup, they’re one of the special ones and it’s legal and I’m jealous when I can’t do it, but watch that long line of red lights cramming the lanes beside zippedy-do-dah alley. If something mucks up over there, they’re going to dodge right into that open space to the left. By all means take advantage of your advantage, but continue to drive as if anything ahead of you could – and will – happen.
- Listening to your sound system on “stupid loud”. That’s higher than 11. They’re your eardrums and not mine, but if you can’t hear emergency vehicles until you see their lights filling your rear-view mirror, you’re dangerous not only to yourself but to everyone else on the road. Many of us have compromised senses already; why would you knowingly remove one that could literally put you in the middle of a life-or-death situation for someone else?
- Road conditions are terrible. Everyone is slowed to a crawl. Except you. You have the traction – if not the brakes – to keep aiming for 100 km/h, and you’re going to do it. Will you get a ticket? Likely only after you’re in the ditch or jammed up the butt of another car. Cops aren’t going to race after you (though you can’t outrun a radio call) because they know Darwin is parked just up ahead, ready to pull you over.
- You’ve straddled a couple of parking spots with your cherished chariot, or nudged up so close to the vehicle beside yours they’ll need the Jaws of Life to get in. Is it illegal? While it may violate some bylaw statutes in public lots, in private ones, it’s up to those who monitor it. I’ve never seen a ticket on one of these; what I have seen – increasingly – are others taking photos to upload to a number of sites calling out these selfish and/or oblivious parkers. I think that would be more embarrassing, frankly. Licence plate numbers are public, but whether you can post those plates and not contravene PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) remains fuzzy. So to speak.
- That brat on a skateboard who just shot out in front of you. That idiot jaywalking in the dark on a rainy night. That cyclist cutting lanes. They all may be at fault if something goes horribly wrong, but you being right doesn’t make them any less injured or dead. You’re not legally obligated to anticipate everyone’s dumb move, but wouldn’t you rather avoid the hollow victory of being in the right just to prove it?
- Nearly everywhere in Canada (not Nunavut) has outlawed using handheld devices while driving. What haven’t been outlawed are handheld meals. Unless an officer observes you swerving madly or you actually cause a collision because the lid flips off your coffee, most jurisdictions haven’t made eating in your car illegal. That is excellent, because I like to believe we’re smart enough to not attempt to one hand a Big Mac before it falls apart on our dry-clean only pants. Right?
- That puddin’ head clogging up the passing lane? Because our laws are full of wordings like “should” and “flow of traffic” and others that remain open to interpretation, in many cases it is technically legal, if not right, for them to keep doing what they’re doing. Police don’t like to ticket someone for going the speed limit; the fact everyone around them is going with the “flow of traffic” means cops aren’t likely to weigh in unless a driver edges into dangerous or reckless behaviour, but it’s others who are more likely to do that. Left lane bandits are usually one of two things: someone who is totally unaware of what is going on around them, or someone who believes it is his or her civic duty to school the rest of us. Is this the most annoying driving behaviour? Probably. We all like to think we couldn’t be goaded into doing stupid things, but someone destroying the flow of traffic engenders more road rage than nearly anything else. We have laws for that road rage; why not have some laws with teeth to take care of lane hogs once and for all?
Lawmakers realized early on that it’s impossible to cover every possibility. With so many factors involved on a roadway, there’s a lot of play in the rope around many of our laws. Everything you just read comes down to common sense and a spirit of unselfishness. Do we really need more and more laws to tell us this?
Of course we do. Unfortunately.