Cambrian: Slice of Life

Slow down ... and live

I’m writing this column a week before the Thanksgiving on which it will be published, fully aware that I should be composing something deeply philosophical, lyrical and, well, thankful.

But right now, I’m still shakingly angry because some idiot driver nearly killed us both by crossing over a double-yellow line on a curvy, two-lane stretch of southbound Highway 1, with heavy traffic coming in the other direction just so he could get to his destination faster than I was driving.

The speed limit on that section of the highway is 55 mph. My odometer read 59.

Many people drive much faster there, but they’re breaking the law (as I was, slightly). It happens way too often. These days, Highway 1 is like Laguna Seca or Le Mans, with amateurs on the course.

Driving habits are becoming deplorable here, with speeding, running red lights, erratic driving. Drivers weaving down the road. They cut in and out, chasing those extra mph.

Some drivers stop, speed up, slow down and then speed up again, all in the space of a block. I get it when they’re from out of the area: They don’t know where they’re going. They’re trying to find a parking space, or they’re awed by beautiful downtown Cambria or Moonstone Beach Drive or, yes, Highway 1.

What nobody needs is some addled speed demon pulling out around them, just to cut a couple of minutes off his drive time. Give ‘em some slack, turkey. They’re visitors, and they’re undoubtedly lost. Cambria roads can be confusing, even for those of us who live here.

Locals know the territory and often take it for granted that everybody else does, too.

I guess driving idiocy is everywhere.

For instance, on Los Osos Valley Road near Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo, traffic is frequently a nightmare anytime after noon. But recently it was extreme, the vehicular equivalent of a Pachinko game. Cars were going in all directions at the same time, all of them too quickly and seemingly at random. As they drove, some drivers also were making cell phone calls, texting, or eating French fries!

I just wanted to slink back home, pull the covers over my head and not come back out again until February.

So this is an open letter to anybody who has ever passed unsafely on Highway 1 or done anything else as stupid and dangerous in vehicle:

Dear sir or madam:

I don’t know where you’re going, but I really want both of us and the people driving around us to get where we’re going without running into each other.

Whatever your destination is, surely you’d rather arrive there in your intact car, rather than in an ambulance. Or a hearse.

Me, too.

As a reporter, I’ve covered far too many accidents. I’ve photographed what crashes at 70 mph can do to vehicles and human bodies. I’ve seen the agony of someone severely injured, of someone who later died, of anguished family members left behind.

It’s awful.

Perhaps you want me to pull over, so you can speed right on past me.

No. I don’t want to endanger myself and others by pulling into a narrow bike lane to let you pass me so you can do something illegal.

Sure, you might get a ticket for going too fast. But far more important than fines, traffic school and points on your record, you could maim or kill someone else.

No, all accidents aren't caused by speed and unsafe passing. But enough of them are to make me very wary when a car comes toward me much too fast, probably because some maniac behind the wheel felt he had to get somewhere faster than the law allows.

So, please, please, go carefully! Make allowances for the weather. Be considerate. Signal when you’re going to turn. Don’t drive too fast.

Don’t drink and drive. Don’t do drugs and drive. Don’t text or phone and drive.

And I beg you, don’t pull across a double yellow line to pass on a blind curve.

Start earlier. Pull over somewhere safe, call and tell whoever that you’ll arrive a little late but you’ll get there.

Then we’ll all have something extra to be thankful for.