Saturday, 19 March 2016

Where has courtesy gone?

Dragon Dad and I headed over to our nearest beach suburb for coffee, food and the papers today - something we do often on weekends. While Saturdays have officially been Sydney's worst day on the roads for some time now (especially in term time, due to school sports...) he and I were fairly rattled by the time we'd gone there and back - not by the volume of cars on the road, but due to the lack of courtesy evident in so many drivers.

There was the empty bus with the driver who clearly wasn't wasting any time getting wherever he was going - he wasn't on an actual bus route, and he was pushing the envelope as far as the speed limit was concerned. Not only that, he wasn't being particularly careful of his bulk as he ducked and weaved around the cars he was sharing the road with - if ANY of them had done anything unexpected, I suspect they'd have been collected by the bus. 

We were heading towards a large intersection at one point on the way home when the lights went amber, so Dragon Dad slowed and pulled up at the lights - as is correct. That amber light DOESN'T mean hit the accelerator and speed up so you can beat the lights. It means slow down and STOP unless you absolutely can't do that safely. That doesn't appear to be how most Sydney drivers understand that particular road rule though - as I said to Dragon Dad today, my feeling lately is that it's only a matter of time before I have someone rear end me. The number of times I've been slowing down for an amber light and have suddenly become aware of the vehicle behind me screaming to a halt just before hitting me is starting to mount up. I can only hope I'm in Dragon Dad's Subaru when it happens, rather than my Barina...and that my already twice injured neck survives another whiplash... 

Then, two houses away from turning back into our own driveway, we narrowly avoided being clipped by the woman impatient to turn across us in her four wheel drive, who then, once we were out of her way, turned in FRONT of the oncoming bus that we'd passed (correctly...). 

While inherently dangerous, all of these driving behaviours are linked by a common lack of basic courtesy. The woman in the four wheel drive was being impatient - it was required, by law, that she wait for the buss to turn. Clearly, she wasn't prepared to do that. Maybe she doesn't like driving behind a bus. Maybe she had somewhere to be and was in a hurry. Whatever the reason, her lack of courtesy meant that she put others at risk. As did the buss driver, as are the drivers in all the cars that are burning rubber to stop behind me when they realise at the last minute that I have no intention of running the lights, so that means they can't either.

When my mother learned to drive - very late in life after we moved from Sydney to a small country town and no driver's license meant no mobility because there wasn't public transport - her instructor was rabid about 'not embarrassing other drivers'. i.e. NOT putting other drivers at risk by your own behaviour in a car. 

While I've used vehicular examples because of the string of events we experienced today, it's part of a larger symptom that I see is ailing wider society today. Courtesy is more than just basic good manners. Courtesy is about being considerate of other people, thinking about them and your effect on them. It's not something that is widely taught any more, and it's not something that comes naturally. Those drivers today were evidence of the effects a lack of courtesy and an inflated sense of self absorption can have on road safety, and it doesn't take much to transfer those concepts to other areas of daily life.

Call me old fashioned - well, I am in many respects, but unlike many, I don't see that as a negative - but I think that people underestimate the damage a lack of courtesy can do in the daily interactions we have with others. Lack of driver courtesy coulds certainly do ME a stack of damage if one of those discouteous drivers DOES rear-end me...


  1. Dragon mom, Sheryl and I were driving today (she was driving, I was riding) and someone honked their horn. we had no idea who they honked at, and Sheryl thoguht it was her, I thought it was someone else. I concluded that if no one knows who was honked at it must be like a tree that fell in the forest with no one around. Surely it must not make a noise.

    In the midst of all the noise and confusion the driver who honked did not get her point across if we all thought it was about us.

    My reaction was that I was certain she was honking at me. Sheryl reminded me that has happened before and yes I cannot deny it has, even as a passenger :)

    1. LOL!! I still remember standing by the side of a road in Jerusalem in peak hour, and listening to the cacophony of horns blaring...something that isn't a feature of the traffic here!!
      Although, I WAS moved to hoot the dipstick in front of me the other day who was dawdling along way UNDER the speed limit, and I'd been stuck behind him for ages, who then stopped at a turn left any time spot and waited until the lights for the rest of the cars travelling straight ahead on the road went green - despite my horn blowing... MOST frustrating that they clearly didn't get that in that instance, the honking WAS all about them!