I watched a woman run a stop sign the other day while I was out for a walk. I knew that this was a route that she traveled often and she should be familiar with stopping there. I could see that she was checking around her as she approached the T intersection so I’m going to assume that she was in a hurry and made the conscious decision to slow down instead of stop.

She stopped at the community mailboxes just in front of me and got out of her vehicle. I briefly considered mentioning her decision not to stop and asking her to be more careful as this was the time of day when children could be present coming home from school.

I worried about the possibility of a confrontation instead of a friendly discussion of viewpoints and decided that I wasn’t feeling flameproof. I walked by and kept my thoughts to myself.

The SUV driven by the lady was carrying the identification of a major Canadian corporation. Communicating with them would not be difficult and I could suggest that they should take their representative to task for her action.

Given my experiences making driving complaints, I discarded this idea and did not even briefly consider reporting to the police.

I’ve returned to the situation in my mind a number of times since then and conclude that drivers make two kinds of mistakes, honest ones and deliberate decisions to disregard the rules of the road.

I try my best every time that I get behind the wheel to pay attention to what I am doing, follow the rules to the letter and drive defensively. It would be mortifying to cause problems for other road users but despite my best intentions, I make mistakes. No matter how hard I try, I will never be the perfect driver that I want to be.

When I fail in my driving duties, I might feel the sting of a traffic ticket, suffer embarassment, or need the cushion of insurance to help compensate for my error.

Hmm, that’s pretty much exactly what the drivers who deliberately disregard the laws face too.

Our system doesn’t really differentiate between the two until that behaviour becomes chronic or another road user is physically injured or killed. Even then in most cases the cushion of insurance is still there to take hurting ourselves out of the consequences of our bad decision making. The courts and RoadSafetyBC sometimes seem ill prepared to apply what the community sees as an appropriate penalty.

Perhaps I should have stopped and politely pointed out to this lady it is not acceptable to run stop signs in our neighbourhood. If she is a reasonable person maybe that is all that is required to insure that she stops next time.

At the other end of the scale, if you deliberately decide to disobey and kill someone, that should be the end of your driving career. Period. Full Stop. No do overs.

What do you think?

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