When I came home with the tire pictured above, my wife’s question was an understandable one, “What are you going to do with that ?” I answered, “I’m going to write about it.” So what is it about this tire that I can write about?
It’s what this tire represents to me that makes it worth the time to comment on. I asked the gentleman who presented the tire how far he had driven while it was flat. He said, ” About a block.” Now that we have established my motivation, we can move on to the real subject of this essay – the democracy of the road.
Part of a safety orientation program I used for new hires in the service station business, most of them young people, included a speech from me in which I would state, “Every knucklehead in the world owns a car, and sooner or later he’s going to pull in here for gas. So please be careful.” This remark does not disparage the 99% percent of the public that are thoughtful, responsible and skilled in the privilege we call driving. What the statement does point out is how egalitarian our roads are. In every situation where there is equal access and the ability of the controlling police agency to enforce laws is limited at best, it is the responsibility of each of us to monitor what we are doing and what is happening around us whether it is on the road or in our neighborhood.
In 2006, AAA found that incidents of aggressive driving “defined as events in which an angry or impatient driver tries to kill or injure another driver after a traffic dispute–has risen by 51 percent since 1990”. The situation in 2010 could not have improved. As recently as last week Philadelphia police charged an off duty firefighter and his son with aggravated assault in connection with injuries a pedestrian sustained after the three argued over who had the right of way. Charges against the father and son may change since the other man’s injuries proved fatal. But the danger of the road is not limited to those on the road that have bottled up rage and feel helpless to control themselves when they perceive some vehicular affront.
The parents of baby boomers are now in their eighties and consider their driving privileges an entitlement. I was reminded of this when a lady came in for gas and was unable to exit the pump island without my assistance in positioning her car in a familiar spot so she could leave without incident. I have personally advised family members of this customer’s confusion at times. There needs to be a concerted effort on the part of professionals in health care, state licensing agencies and the children and care providers of seniors to provide for re-certification of driving privileges. This would include physical and mental minimum standards as well as road tests for all drivers as they age. I say this as a child of a parent of in an assisted living facility and as a front edge boomer.
This brings me to another group of people who are equally entitled to access the roadways. They are the rude and selfish, a group the owner of the pictured tire would fall into. No tire is shredded to this extent in one block. A more reasonable explanation is that this driver was reluctant to change the tire or call for help (possibly because he lacked a good spare tire). As a result, he jeopardized his own welfare and that of those sharing the road with him that day as he rode beyond the safe limits of his tire. Everyone acknowledges equal access to our roads, but like democracy we all have different interpretations of the responsibilities that go with it.
City Fireman, Son Charged in Fatal Beating, by Robert Moran, The Phladelphia Inquirer, www.philly.com
Road Rage USA, by Jason Vest, Warren Cohen, Mike Tharp, US News and World Report, www.drivers.com