Thursday, September 23, 2010
Bikes and Cars: We May Struggle to Share the Road...
But after talking with Shane Farthing of WABA and John Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic, I learn that both agree: Maryland's vehicular manslaughter laws are in need of an overhaul.
Natasha Pettigrew's death is still under investigation: as is the death of cyclist Stanton Miller of Montgomery County. But the cases have both Farthing and Townsend talking about the need to focus on the obligation that drivers have on the roadways. AAA Mid-Atlantic was right there with Prince George's County State's Attorney Glen Ivey in Annapolis back in March: fighting to change the laws that allow drivers to --in the words of Ivey--"walk, even drive away" from a fatal crash with nothing more than a traffic ticket.
You can hear the pieces on WTOP at 103.5 fm.
And I'm just thinking:
Who hasn't heard from police that 'Driving is not a right, it's a privilege."? Yet don't we all act as though it's our right? I mean after all, a car is the thing that can empower us to travel as far as we want whenever we want. I know as a young reporter working at suburban and rural stations my reality was: no car--no job. It was a lifeline to my livelihood. A car allowed me to work crazy shifts and head to out of the way destinations at a moment's notice. For many people, including former teaching colleagues in Montgomery County, the car was the only way home: to affordable housing in Frederick or Washington Counties. Or even to homes in Pennsylvania.
Every driver I know will cite the examples they see of cyclists who zip between cars, blow through stop lights, or stop signs, or generally treat traffic laws as things that apply only when convenient. I've been frustrated myself when a pedestrian darts out into traffic outside of a crosswalk, or a cyclist who decicdes to thread the needle in gridlocked traffic. But what of the drivers who drink and drive, who text and drive, who speed, who travel in the shoulder or make the decision that make their attitudes clear: the laws apply--but not to me, not at this moment?
So I ask: how willing are we to admit our own transportation transgressions? And how willing are we, as a friend of Natasha Pettigrew's family says "to treat life as though it really is precious"? At what point do we look at that motorist next to us, that cyclist in the bike lane, that pedestrian approaching the crosswalk, as someone's child, wife, husband, parent? Can we give each other a break?
I'm a reporter. I don't have the answers. I'm just asking.