Thursday, March 30, 2006


So the day passes. I calm down. I no longer feel like beating the guy till he's as damaged as the woman he hit. I mean, I don't believe he's an evil man. The look on his face as he sat in the back of the police car was not one of triumph. He made a mistake but unfortunately someone else is paying the price for that mistake. And that my friends is the crux: the consequences of poor driving are far out of proportion to the punishment that our laws provide. Consider this, the man drove away after the police were done with him. At the very least someone who's put another person in hospital should not be allowed to drive away.

I can't say this often enough: driving a car is the most dangerous thing most people do in a day. Complete care and attention is the absolute minimum that the task requires. I beg of you, think about that for moment the next time you get behind a wheel.

Anyway, I was calm until I left work. There on the street was a small pile of sand, a dark red stain in the middle. The cops had put it down to soak up the blood. I stood there and watched as cars slowly tracked it to the west, each one carried away a tiny piece of that poor woman, unknowing and uncaring. Lynch mob. Justice ragged and personal, it sucks to know that I have the capacity for the these feelings, god help me if I'm ever in a position to act on them.


Fred said...

They let him drive away? That really pisses me off.

Coelecanth said...

Yup, I watched him get out of the cop car climb (literaly) into his jacked up pick-up and drive off. Maybe in the eyes of the law he did nothing wrong, I don't know all the details. But it still makes me cross-eyed angry.

Freddy my man, I've been meaning to introduce you to MJ. Long time friend, former band mate, current participant in the Ottawa music scene and all round great gal. Her web site is I've also been meaning to add your link, lazyness isn't just a habit, it's a lifestyle.

Fred said...

Thanks so much! I appreciate that! I'll visit her site right away. I'm kicking myself in the ass to get out there more. Always into meeting new people, not just for music! Cheers. :)

Esther Kustanowitz said...

How terrifying. So sorry...makes me glad I'm not a driver, unless the situation calls for it. And then I'm so cautious it's ridiculous. Still, sorry...

Anonymous said...

You've given me a lot to think about, and now I have to add my two cents.

I drive a lot. I lived in the country from the time I was 16 until I was about 26. I lived in many Canadian cities, and as a musician, I'm constantly hauling around music gear. When I moved from Edmonton to Halifax to do my MA, I drove a loaded car across the country ALONE.

Considering how many kilometers I've clocked behind the wheel of a car, the amount of accidents I've been involved in make me a lucky annomally. I did, however, total my old beater in an accident last January and it was my fault. The result: two totalled cars, no injuries. I was very, very lucky, as was the other driver. There it was: after driving for twenty years, I'd had my first accident.

After having stated this, I have to admit that driving really stresses me out. It's a dangerous endeavor, and despite my years of experience, you have to drive for everyone else out there. I'm the one bitching behind the wheel bitching about how other people drive/don't drive. Driving is NOT a pleasant experience. It's about getting from A to B. If I didn't have to do it, I wouldn't.

In every city in which I've lived, there is a very distinct driver/pedestrian culture. In Montreal, everyone drives really fast and agressively. Move it or lose it. If you know where you're going and you keep up with the traffic, you're fine. If you don't, you're screwed. Drive with confidence, and everything goes well.

In Ottawa, the traffic moves at a quite slower pace, but people are courteous and let in other cars waiting to get into traffic. It's a great place to learn to drive. However, when you go to other cities, you will be stunned that no one will let you into traffic from your parking spot.

In Halifax, it's quicker to walk than to drive. It drove me NUTS. Drivers let everyone in, and if it looks like a pedestrian is even thinking of crossing, they stop, even if the light gives the car priority. Pedestrians rule in Halifax. They don't even look before stepping off the curb.

As far as I've seen so far, Alberta drivers are by far the most dangerous. In Alberta, the road is considered a limited good. When you signal to get into another lane, people speed up to ensure you don't get in front of them for fear of you costing them something. THIS IS DANGEROUS!!!

Most of the time, Alberta drivers are asleep at the wheel and don't plan ahead. My favorite is when at the last minute, drivers realize they have to cross three lanes of traffic in order to make their turn. They abruptly stop, piss off everyone behind them who have to pass on the right or the left, wait until the coast is clear, and then turn. My mother does this. And I've seen this done by many other aging-over-cautious-starting-to-age drivers. Scary as all hell!!!

Pedestrians aside, dangerous driving is defined by doing the unexpected. My advice to drivers who are going to other cities: know where you're going, keep up with the traffic, adapt to the local driving culture, be ready for anything and don't make assumptions about how other cars will react. And if you're lost or if you miss your turn, it's safer to keep going until you can turn off and go back. If the traffic is getting impatient behind you, pull over when it's safe to do so, let all the other cars go by and then get back on the road. Impatient drivers do rash things, and you're the cause.

Back to pedestrians and the accident to which you were referring, did you actually witness the accident? I'm just going to toss this out there: whose fault was this accident? As much as drivers know about the dangers of driving, so do pedetrians. I think of this all the time when pedestrians leap out in front of my car wearing dark clothing in the night. It makes me see red. They have no idea that I can't see them. And what they're doing is illegal. People constantly step off the curb when the light indicates it for me to turn. There are stupid people out there, period!

The sad part is that when it comes to a competition between a car and a pedestrian or a cyclist, there's no question who is going to end up the victim...

As for being allowed to drive home after hitting someone, despite whose fault it was, knowing that I was part of an incident that caused someone any kind of pain would have left me in such a state that I would not have been able to drive home safely. I think this driver was nuts not to ask for help getting home.

My friend was killed in a car crash. She hit a patch of ice, her car spun out and a semi hit her. This accident was no one's fault, but I always wanted to write a letter to this semi-driver to tell him that despite the loss we feel, no one blames him for her death and that I hope he does not carry unnecessary guilt with him forever.

Perhaps what perpetuates this scary attitude of both drivers and pedestrians is that after an accident occurs, things fall in the hands of the insurance. Other than dealing with a crumpled metal carcass, no one is forced to face the other parties involved in an accident. You have no idea who is injured, and for how long. The insurance takes care of those things. You just deal with financial end of purchasing another vehicle and increased insurance rates. Perhaps if we had to face the people we've injured, face their families and are made aware of how our stupidity has negatively affected other lives, perhaps we'd all be better drivers...

MJ xx

Coelecanth said...

Hey MJ,

You're so right about driving culture. Every city and country is different and both drivers and pedestrians have to adapt. Good point.

I didn't witness it but I saw the result seconds after it happened. The woman was lying in the crosswalk facing north. The truck had been driving north and turning to the west or to its left. She was 2/3 of the way across the Ave.

Considering her age it's highly unlikely that she sprinted out in front of the truck. Now maybe she was late in getting across, I didn't think to check the status of the light. But if that were the case the truck also had to be running the red or at least the yellow because they were both travelling in the same direction and she was so far across the Ave.

Maybe it wasn't the drivers fault entirely, honesty compeles me to say this, but I don't see how she could have been fully to blame.
You touched on the point I've been trying to make: the consequences of his mistake do not match the consequences of hers, assuming she made one at all. Make a mistake walking around traffic and the punishment is personal; you, the transgressor, pay directly for your inattention. Make a mistake driving and those around you are the ones who pay. At least some of the time anyway.

Your idea that the impersonal nature of insurance claims is a good one. People need to see the damage done.

Yup, there are stupid people on both sides of this equation, but this is a case where it seems pretty unlikely that the offender was the pedestrian.

Would I have been as upset if it'd been a mid-block interaction with a healthy young guy having being hit? No, I probably wouldn't have. In such a case I'd be inclined to place a lot of the blame on the pedestrian. I'd be more sad than angry.