Categorized | Express Editorials

Zen on the Road

Posted on 27 July 2012

Did you ever come across “those” kinds of drivers? you know, the overly aggressive types that race past you without using their blinkers only to get stuck at the very same red light a few feet down the road?

Or maybe you’re more familiar with the other kind —drivers who don’t seem to know or care where they are going and are more interested in sightseeing than using their cars to get from point A to B. These folks often drive well below the speed limit and frequently slam on their brakes for no apparent reason.

Then there’s the “U-turners” and, well, you know all about them…

This summer, it seems, has been full of all these types of drivers and then some. We’re not sure why, but it just strikes us as being far worse than in years past. And the results can be seen in the news each week — tragic reports of horrendous accidents seem par for the course this year. From the hit and run that led to the death of a nun out for a walk in Water Mill and the recent multi-car pile up on the Napeague Stretch, to an accident in Springs in which a young pedestrian was struck and killed by a taxi, and the terrible accident this last Tuesday in Southampton that shut down County Road 39 and the Sunrise Highway, resulting in a massive traffic jam in both directions.

And it’s not even August.

We all know the reality — the population on the East End explodes in summer, leading to more traffic than these roads were built to handle. On top of that, everyone is rushing to get where they want to be.

So we’d like to take this moment to remind everyone there’s a reason we take Defensive Driving and not “Offensive Driving.” It’s as if everything that was taught in Driver’s Ed goes right out the driver’s side window once we’re rushing to work or cruising to that barbecue; rules we know we should follow in theory and by law, are subjected to be selectively forgotten once we’re behind the wheel.

According to the United States Census Bureau there were 33,808 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2009, 1,156 of them were in New York.  We like to think we are in control when we are driving and protected by our steel and plastic armored wheels, but as we’ve seen too many times this season, metal crumples and plastic breaks.

And what breaks even more easily are the bodies of pedestrians and cyclists who share the road with us.

So we’re asking that everyone reading this take a deep breath, calm down and make an effort to assume a Zen-like demeanor on East End roads in the weeks to come. Remember that everything we do has consequences, and while it might be very tempting to think about the short term goal of getting to our destination as quickly as possible, what is of even greater importance is that we (and everyone we pass on the way) get there in one piece.

Yes, there are people unfamiliar with our roads, but please try to avoid the road rage instincts that can turn this into an epic battle of local vs. nonlocal drivers. Instead we should all try to be civil, courteous, even, and realize we are all sharing the same space for this brief stretch of time.

So drive a little slower, be a little kinder and most of all be more alert. And the next time you find yourself in that monster traffic jam, breathe in, car sing like you have never sung before and let that other car go in front of you.

Trust us, the beach will still be there when you arrive.

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