This scene is probably familiar to most St. John’s motorists: you’re on your way to work (or, alternatively, on your way home from work) and come across flashing lights and a long line of backed-up traffic. Another accident.
Broken bits of two vehicles are strewn on the pavement.
A firefighter sweeps pieces of glass aside. You hope none of it sticks in your tires.
A bent, detached bumper sits in the gutter.
If the accident occurred mere minutes ago, a paramedic might already be bent over at an open door or window, talking to a driver or passenger.
They must have a protocol: “Are you OK?”
“Where do you feel pain?”
“Can you move?”
Passersby will wonder, “Whose fault was it?”
Theoretically, it should be possible for everyone to drive to work and then drive home after work thousands of times without crashing — either into another vehicle, or a pole, or a tree, or a pedestrian.
In fact, for the vast majority of drivers, this is indeed the case. There are plenty of people who have driven 20 years, 30 years or more who have never had an accident, beyond perhaps a minor bump or scrape in a parking lot.
And yet, every week or so there seems to be a serious accident on the parkway, which regular users will have noticed has come to resemble a speedway.
Which leads to another mystery: why would anyone who is old enough to drive — and thus is, presumably, capable of rational thought — go 100 km/h on the parkway?
There are traffic lights every few hundred metres.
Chances are 50-50 that you’re going to hit a red light. If you get there a few seconds quicker, what have you accomplished, other than endangering yourself as well as other people?
The police regularly send out notices about accidents in this or that area of the city. They are a daily occurrence.
The standard explanation: excess speed and/or alcohol. In police-speak, “Alcohol is considered to be a factor.”
But at 9 a.m. or 5:30 p.m., probably not. At those times of day, the roadway wreckage is most likely due to Bad Driver A crossing paths with Bad Driver B. The idiot who has a habit of running red lights meets up with the idiot who has a habit of passing on the right, and the sirens wail.
Good drivers, those who pay attention and adhere to the general rules of the road, can only hope they never cross paths with Bad Driver C, who, as the cliché goes, is an accident waiting to happen.
The term “defensive driving” hadn’t been coined when I got my learner’s permit at age 14. It seems to be a concept that means “be careful, so you don’t fall victim to a bad driver.”
At any given accident scene, there is probably one bad driver, and possibly two bad drivers, or, at the very least, a good driver who made an uncharacteristic mistake.
As many people have rightly pointed out — regularly in letters to the editor — the word “accident” is a misnomer and a euphemism. It implies that there was no cause, and there is no fault.
Strictly defined, an accident is an event that is unexpected, unintentional, not deliberate. Car “accidents” don’t qualify. Perhaps we should instead refer to “crashes” or “collisions” — and, yes, the media is a prime culprit in this ongoing misusage.
If you run a red light, what do you think might happen?
If you pass on the right, what do you think might happen?
The bad results that inevitably occur cannot be described as unforeseen or unexpected.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.