Day or Night, Police and EMS Sirens Fill the Air
The weather here in Southwest Florida is finally cooling off, allowing us to come out of our air-conditioned cocoons and bask in the fresh air. Time to open the house windows and sliders and spend some time on your lanai.
Yet far more often than you may expect, the silence you may be enjoying is disrupted by the shrieking of law enforcement and emergency medical crew vehicles racing to yet another catastrophic crash on our local roads. Especially in the still and quiet night and early morning hours, you can hear sirens wailing from miles away. In instances where people live near a major intersection or busy roadway, they can often not only hear the sirens, but they also heard the crash that precedes them.
Sometimes you can judge the severity of the crash by the number, intensity and sound of the sirens. You can tell if more than one vehicle is responding, and usually large fire trucks and ambulances will have a louder, deeper siren than does a police cruiser. You can also tell when a siren is a cop pulling someone over for a traffic infraction or when they're on their way to a motor vehicle accident. Cops use a more urgent-sounding, noticeable pattern in their sirens when heading to a crash scene than they do when pulling someone over for a broken taillight.
More Crashes, More Sirens
Now that we're in our busy “snowbird” season, there is an increase in the number of serious car, motorcycle, pedestrian and other crash scenarios on Southwest Florida roads. In a recent story aired on WINK-TV, it was noted that as of November 13, 2018, there had been 159 fatalities within Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry Counties. 82 of those were in Lee County.
Between November 11th and 13th alone there were 4 deaths, one of them an innocent 5-year-old boy.
From roughly the beginning of January to just after Easter when the tourists and winter residents go back north, there is an increasing need for people to drive defensively. It's extremely difficult to get around, which only adds to the frustration of driving. Congested roads and bad driving can be a deadly combination not only for causing bad accidents, but also for road rage incidents as well. If you've lived in Southwest Florida for a long time, you likely remember there was a very noticeable distinction between summer and winter driving here. Summer was so dead that there were restaurants and other businesses that would completely shut down for September rather than pay their staff to just stand around.
Now, even though we all notice the increase in seasonal traffic, it seems like there is less of a delineation between the high and low season traffic. Basically, the roads are always crowded all year long – but more so during February and March.
Speaking of sirens and bad driving, how many times have you seen drivers not pulling over for an emergency vehicle, completely oblivious to the blaring sirens and flashing lights coming up behind them? Sometimes it's hard to figure out how some drivers even get a license to begin with.
Why Do Some People Drive Like Idiots?
When it comes to bad drivers, most are completely unaware of their shortcomings when behind the wheel. You never hear someone say, “oh, yes, I'm a terrible driver”. People are oblivious as to their actions behind the wheel, driving around in their own little world while making stupid and dangerous driving decisions.
We've all seen examples of idiot drivers like these:
“What's a turn signal?” - This one is pretty self-explanatory. People often feel that using turn signals is something the other drivers should do – they just can't be bothered to try to let drivers around them know what their next move might be. This creates chaos at intersections, mostly, and when someone in front of you tries to move into your lane without signaling first. To the other extreme, there are those who travel down the road with their turn signals on for miles, completely unaware of the confusion they leave in their wake. Do you go ahead and pull out in front of a car that's approaching you with their signal on, as if they're going to turn at the street you're on? Not if you're smart.
“I Don't Know How to Merge” – Merging of vehicles from two lanes into one is a complete mystery to a lot of motorists. There are those who race around the cars attempting to merge correctly in order to get to the head of the line, and then hope someone lets them in. The other extreme is to try to merge too soon, holding up the cars behind you. A major issue is that in order to merge correctly, you need a little cooperation from the drivers in the lane you want to be in. This means a small amount of consideration, allowing one car into your lane – if every driver did that, the traffic would flow smoothly and everyone could be safely on their way.
This also takes place on highway on-ramps, when a driver is attempting to merge into a lane where cars and huge trucks are already doing 70+ miles per hour. Trying to slide in at 45 miles per hour is going to cause drivers around you to make abrupt decisions as to breaking or changing lanes, which often leads to crashes.
“I'll Let You Go First” – We've all seen this driver. They'll stop at a four-way stop intersection, and even though it's their turn to go, for some reason they opt to motion to the driver coming from another direction to go first. That's not how four-way intersections were designed to work, nor is it what the traffic laws say is the correct way to do it. You may think you're being nice, but it does nothing but cause hesitancy and confusion for the drivers around you. Florida statute 316, section 123, spells it out very clearly:
At a four-way stop intersection, the driver of the first vehicle to stop at the intersection shall be the first to proceed. If two or more vehicles reach the four-way stop intersection at the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.
A lot of crashes could be avoided if people just did this instead of making the wrong assumption that they're “just being nice”.
“I'm Looking for an Address” – Just because a driver may have a GPS app on their phone does not necessarily mean they know where they're going. People will often drive too slowly in an attempt to see the numbers on a building or street sign, making drivers behind them crawl along at the same snail's pace. Laying on your horn will result in one of two actions; complete disregard for that loud sound behind them, or in the most extreme examples, a guy jumps out of his car and beats the crap out of you. Another example of the address seeker is that if they do finally discover where they want to go, they make an abrupt action to get there, maybe cutting across lanes or slamming on their brakes to quickly turn into a parking lot.
“I've Got Your Back” – Following the vehicle in front of you too closely is a major cause of motor vehicle crashes known as rear-end collisions. Tailgaters, for some inexplicable reason, seem to think that riding your bumper will make you speed up, when in reality the exact opposite is true. One of the stupidest moves out there is the “brake check”, or slamming on your brakes to try to get the guy behind you to back off. Not only is this extremely dangerous, you just may find yourself on the receiving end of a serious case of road rage.
And here's a strange coincidence about tailgaters – it seems that nearly all of them will be driving with their high-beam headlights on.
“I Just Prefer to Always be in the Left Lane” – Drivers who drive in the left lane at a speed below the speed limit are not only a nuisance, they're breaking the law. Florida statute 316.081 states, “proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic” in the left lane or staying there when “the driver knows or reasonably should know that he or she is being overtaken in that lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed” is a moving violation punishable by a $179 fine and three points on your license.
“Actually, Let's Try the Right Lane…No, Now the Middle…” – Some drivers, apparently in a hurry, see the highway lanes like an obstacle course, and drive like they're trying to slide between the gates on a downhill ski run. Weaving in and out of lanes, especially on an Interstate highway at high speed, is one of the most annoying and risky behaviors you'll encounter. What those drivers never seem to realize is at the end of the day, the cars they were trying to get around are going to pull up right next to them at the next off ramp anyway.
Not surprisingly, the lane-weavers usually don't use any type of turn signals as they wind their way down the road, either, making things that much more dangerous.
The Psychology of Driving Badly
The mind works in mysterious ways. People tend to pick up habits – good and bad – that they see others do. Younger drivers, or even kids way too young to drive, emulate what the adults in their lives do and say. If you're driving your kids around, you have a great opportunity to teach them some valuable life lessons. Sadly, too many people set a very bad example when they're behind the wheel, and seldom even realize it.
If you're always yelling out loud at other drivers, cutting in and out of traffic recklessly, rolling through stop signs and driving while distracted, there's a very high probability your kids will end up driving like that, too. Kids are very impressionable and watch and listen to everything you do. They feel if it's OK for Mommy or Daddy to drive like that, it must be OK for me, too. While no one is perfect, and we all lose our temper while stuck in traffic, it's important to do our best to demonstrate to our kids the proper way to follow the law while behind the wheel so they'll hopefully pick up good driving habits from you.
There are other ways our minds can dictate the way we drive, and not in a good way. There was a study done that revealed that people who regularly play video games about driving, like Grand Theft Auto or one of the hundreds of other titles, are more prone to taking greater risks in real-life driving habits. Another driver study looked at entertainment like movies and television shows that glorify aggressive and risky driving. Not surprisingly, people who are enthralled with movies like the Fast & Furious series, or even the proliferation of televised, real-life police chases, were found to be more prone to extremely risky and poor driving choices.
Some drivers just feel invincible behind the wheel, which puts everyone around them at risk of being involved in a crash. Yet another study was done that showed the safer you feel behind the wheel, the more apt you are to be an unsafe driver. The driver of a brand new vehicle, with all of the latest high-tech gadgets and so-called safety features like back-up cameras and hands-free parking assist, tend to feel the car will take care of them if something goes wrong. This causes them to let their guard down while they drive, not focus on the task of driving and become lazy about their driving decisions.
Silence the Sirens
If you monitor social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, you'll see multiple local crashes being reported by the news media, every day. There are days when there'll be up to 6 crashes in a single morning rush hour, from a serious roll-over on the Interstate to a collision of commuters on a quiet street like McGregor Boulevard.
If we all used a little more common sense, followed the speed limit and other traffic laws and stopped driving so distracted, we could do a lot to silence some of the sirens we all hear too frequently. Driver error is the leading cause of car, motorcycle and trucking accidents. It's very similar to the adage about guns; guns don't kill people, people do.
Well, cars don't kill people – drivers do.
Goldberg Noone, LLC, is a personal injury law firm based in downtown Fort Myers, Florida. We help people who have suffered a serious injury because of someone else's carelessness, negligence or just plain bad decisions.
If you or someone you care about has been involved in a crash, we're always available to answer your questions free of charge. Even if you don't hire our firm, you can always get the answers and information you need in order to begin to put your life back together. You can speak to an attorney by calling 239-461-5508, or just complete this simple form and we'll reach out to you immediately.