Sunday, November 16, 2014

Less Impatience, More Consideration: A Case for 'Courteous Driving Day'

Image courtesy of nipitphand
Every day, we witness drivers who are careless, distracted, aggressive or dangerous. Just this past week, I saw a dump truck sail through a solid red light. I used to find aggressive driving annoying and frustrating. Now, with two kids in the car, my protective instincts are on high alert.

For my part, I try to be a kind driver by giving people the right of way on crowded Toronto side streets. Sometimes, I get a friendly wave but most of the time drivers just speed on by, eager to make it home five seconds faster.

Whenever I encounter pedestrians at intersections, I make eye contact to let them know they can safely cross.  But then other cars often speed through the intersection, many jumping their turn at the stop sign.

Something has to change, yet the problem seems insurmountable.

Toronto’s ‘Slow Down, Kids at Play’ campaign, stemming from the tragic traffic death of a child this past summer, is a step in the right direction. I know that whenever I see one of those signs on a front lawn, I give my speedometer a check.

‘Drive it Forward Fridays’ is another interesting campaign devised by Safeco Insurance to try to reduce aggressive driving. The company asked drivers to visit their web site or use the hashtag #DIFF to pledge to be more courteous drivers, and to share what positive changes they were making in their driving habits.

What if we took this campaign a step further by instituting a Courteous Driving Day? What if we asked people – for just one day - to try to improve their driving skills? Slow down and stop whenever they encounter an orange traffic light. Give other drivers the right of way when given the opportunity. Maintain the speed limit and respect others who wish to drive 5 km/hour slower than them. Try not to take things so personally when behind the wheel.

It would only last 24 hours, but maybe it would get people thinking about their driving habits. Maybe people would see that by changing their mindset, they could feel less stressed behind the wheel.  And by giving a little they, in turn, would encounter more courteous drivers.

It’s a long shot but if International Bacon Day can get instituted, then maybe there’s hope for a day that would make our streets safer for our kids.

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