It was a moonless night maybe three months ago here in my hometown of Paso Robles. I was turning left from Spring Street to go east on the Niblick Bridge. As usual, I had trouble seeing the faded, neglected lines on the pavement, which should delineate the traffic lanes.
As I completed my turn onto the bridge, I saw a car’s headlights coming straight at me. I had blundered into the center oncoming lane.
I quickly swerved into the correct lane. My heart was pounding. I had just missed a head-on crash.
I looked in my rear-view mirror to see if I’d caused trouble for any other cars. Apparently, I hadn’t. But I noticed one car move from the right-hand lane into the center lane behind me. It seemed to be following me.
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It wasn’t a police car. But then I remembered those signs that urge us to report drunken drivers if we notice any. So I tried extra hard to drive within the speed limit, and to obey all traffic laws and regulations even though I haven’t had a drink for ten years.
When I turned off Niblick Road, the car followed me. When I turned onto my street, the car did too. When I pulled into my driveway, the car drove past slowly.
I guessed it was a public- spirited citizen who took those signs seriously. I told myself I shouldn’t be irritated or angry. He or she was doing the right thing.
When the doorbell rang 15 minutes later, I wasn’t surprised. I looked through the peephole and saw a man in a blue uniform. I opened the door. He identified himself as a police officer, and I invited him in.
He came inside after telling another officer several feet behind him that he could go. I assume he’d decided I wasn’t drunk.
We sat down and he asked why I’d driven onto the oncoming lane on the Niblick Bridge at Spring Street.
I said the neglected street striping there is faded and obliterated.
He said something like, “So the poor condition of the lane markings caused you to get in the wrong lane.”
I said, “Yes.” He thanked me and left.
Since then, I have never turned left at night from Spring Street onto the Niblick Bridge. I always use the 13th Street Bridge.
My close call convinced me that pavement lane markings are vital to traffic safety. Repainting them should be near the top of our city’s to-do list.
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.