Another Bad Statistic
The Florida Highway Patrol has ranked Jacksonville as the worst city in Florida for car crashes.
Worse than Miami, worse than Orlando. If you’ve ever driven in either one of those cities, you have to wonder how that can be, but there it is. Worst.
I’ve lived all over the country, and have landed here by choice. I’ve spent a lot of time on California freeways, the Washington Beltway, and on the Atlanta connector. I’ve seen my share of bad drivers.
I’ve also had the poor luck to be stuck in Miami and Orlando traffic at rush hour. That’s about as abysmal as it gets.
But based on the way people drive here in Jacksonville, I’m not entirely surprised that we have more crashes than any place else in the state, apparently by a large margin. Around 14,000 in Jacksonville alone, according to the report.
That keeps your local traffic reporter busy.
But then, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a huge pickup truck or SUV sitting 5 feet off my bumper at highway speed when there’s obviously nowhere else for me to be. I’m trying to get around the other car, but the one in front of me is not allowing me to go as fast as you want me to go.
I think part of the problem causing this statistic is that, from my observation, people only seem to drive about 10 feet in front of their cars… or enormous trucks. There’s no reason for the monster truck to ride my bumper. I might actually be intimidated, but I can’t help it if there’s no place for me to get out of your way.
I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve been passed by someone with a phone pressed to their ear, mostly oblivious to what’s going on around them, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating and generally lost. Or they’re amazingly aggressive, charging up behind someone, practically threatening to push them out of the way, and then passing in whatever lane first comes available with a deafening roar straight-pipe aggression only to race up behind the next car in line.
Or we both wind up stopped by the same stoplight. That’s particularly fun.
When you learn to fly, you learn some very basic things. Perhaps the most important being: look around.
I can still hear my flight instructor telling me to get my head out of the cockpit and look outside the airplane. You learn to scan your instruments and then scan outside, and maybe more importantly, you learn to look ahead of the airplane and anticipate what’s coming up, because you can’t just step on the brakes. These are skills that should be taught to drivers. Drive ahead of your car.
I was in an airplane once that got away from me. I distinctly remember trying to step on the brake pedal, because things were happening too fast. But all that happened was that the tail of the airplane skewed around a bit because I’d kicked the rudder. It brought into very sharp focus that I had to be in charge of the airplane or it would very quickly be in charge of me. I’m writing this, so I obviously got it together and remembered to fly the airplane, but it was a sobering lesson.
This statistic should be sobering as well. As big cities go, we’re not all that big. There’s no reason that we should have more traffic accidents than anyplace else in the state, unless it’s just the way people drive. I’ve been pushed off the road by merging trucks and gotten the stink eye because I had the bad manners to stop at an intersection where a fire truck was blasting its horn warning me that IT was going through. We all have bad days. There are times when we all drive aggressively. And despite the fact that my Neptune Beach native wife tells me “we don’t honk in the south”, maybe if a warning was given once in a while, there might be fewer crashes.
The bottom line, to my mind anyway, is that we all need to be a little more thoughtful when we’re on the road. Maybe we can not be the city with the most accidents next year. And no matter what, no matter how hard you might try to get in front of the car ahead of you … well … there’s always going to be another car ahead of you.
Breath in, breath out, move on.