Bad drivers cause roadway wreckage

Brian Jones
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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



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Recent comments

  • Townie Man
    March 23, 2013 - 07:51

    You can drive fast and be safe, if you can handle your car well unlike a lot of people. The problems arise when nervous drivers tie up traffic, older drivers drive too slow, inconsiderate drivers do not signal, unattentive drivers dont look where they are going, and inexperienced drivers are out in road and weather conditions beyond their and their car's ability. Then in Newfoundland we have a unique condition: people used to driving in one road towns with no lights and little traffic coming to St. John's only to get mezmorized in traffic risking their lives and the lives of others. I compare people who drive for a living (and not just too and from a living) to old sailors who can read the waves and survive.

  • Anna
    March 22, 2013 - 11:05

    I agree with you Jeff, the signage in this City is awful also the fact that there are no lines on the roads now and won't be until June or July certainly doesn't help. Council is too busy approving new developments to worry about something like signage. On Kenmount Road, you can't even find a sign close to telling you where Brad Gushue highway east turn off is. I do have on complaint, when people are turning left, the arrow flashes at least five times before the first driver moves, this in turn enrages people behind him and so four or five more cars go through the red light. People need to pay attenton.

  • Jeff
    March 22, 2013 - 08:12

    Bad driving aside, poor / misleading signage coupled with bad lighting on the city highways don't help the situation. Can we get some mainlanders out here to show us how it's done?