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Life Hacks? Not exactly...

by J.C. Steele about a year ago in travel

These used to be everyday lessons.

Traffic - no one wins!

This isn’t a moan. This isn’t an accusatory assault on the pedestrian, the cyclist or the driver. This isn’t even ground breaking in any way.

But it used to be common sense...

I’m a driver. Most days, I can be found in my cab, driving the streets of the city of london and the surrounding areas. I consider myself to be a good, safe, driver - but then again who doesn’t? All I can say is that I’m trusted to train others and our vehicles carry a black box - so I must be doing something right to keep being invited back each day!

After being stuck at a junction for nearly 6 minutes (an eternity to any driver!) I spotted that holiest of grails - a clear lane both ways! Not a single cyclist in sight! Astounded, I look right, I look left, I look right again and then - I stamp on the breaks as someone walks out in front of me, completely oblivious to the devastating blow they’ve dealt me.

The blinding light of the next cars headlights, all lights now green, traffic back in full swing, send me drifting off into another world. A world where everything was above my head, where a walk across a road would involve a hand much larger than mine gripping me tightly. A world where everything was exciting and new. Except the clip across my ear should I break the most important rules - the rules of the road!

More importantly, crossing one. These were things that I remember being told almost every day. Things that were engraved into my brain, consequences fatal outlined every time we neared a crosswalk or a set of lights!

It got me thinking, why are these rules not taught by parents any more? Maybe they are, but the epidemic laziness rife in today’s society prevents these simple actions being taken?

Let’s start with the above scenario. I was always taught that it’s dangerous to cross a road where it meets another. Walk a few feet down the road I wish to cross. Now I have only two directions to concentrate on. I’m no longer on a main road, it’ll be quieter and less likely to render me a smudge on the black top by a car that didn’t see me as it sped around the corner.

But that’s hard right? Walking a few extra feet? Maybe the road sinks metres below a river if you get more than a few feet from the junction? Streams of slow moving, red hot lava edge their fiery way across the road but metres away from the junction. So you have to cross right there. So how about this? Don’t walk in front of the next vehicle to join the new road. That driver is now looking both ways in the new road. If it’s a big vehicle, the driver may also be checking mirrors to see down the side of the vehicle. Maybe it’s a cross roads and that adds o coming traffic as well! That’s 8 directions taking their eyes off of the pavement immediately in front of them!

Is that a ‘you’ problem, as the highly mobile pedestrian? Well, no, strictly speaking, it’s not. (See? No side taking here!) But it could be if that driver doesn’t see you. Just because you can see the vehicle doesn’t mean the driver can see you. As you emerge from behind the windscreen cross beam, too late to be saved, dragged screaming to your painful end, you may find yourself thinking ‘why didn’t I just cross behind this vehicle’?

Perhaps you now feel a burning desire to discuss this - maybe a little social gathering is now in order to discuss the merits of the 3 metre walk away from the corner of the road. But reader, I urge you - choose your getheribg point wisely! Be not the group of people who indulge in the latest trend of stoppin at zebra crossings to have a little chin wag!

Yes, unbelievably we now regularly see people stopped at zebra crossings, absolutely no intent to use them, checking their phones, having a chat or just marvelling at the super human complexity of the world’s design! Again, this isn’t really a dire problem to you, but having seen plenty of drivers not even bother to slow down at a zebra crossing, why blur the lines of this previously ‘black and white’ (I’m here all week!) concept of a crossing?

It’s too far to ask you to just stick to crossing at designated crossing points, right? I thought so. I suppose I see the pointlessness of this request. But please, please please, maybe don’t use your child laden roam as a device to stop traffic? At least step out first, your babies can’t choose to not jump out in front of moving traffic and us (safe) drivers really don’t need help from that kind of shock to lessen our sedentary lives!

But, as I said, it’s not just pedestrians who have lost their way. Drivers can shine some light on the matter to. Or less light, in some cases!

We aren’t going to go into indicators here. We finally got BMW drivers to acknowledge their existence and now they think it’s a given right to change lanes just because they used them! (Tongue in cheek, I’m confident the BMW slander is wholeheartedly undeserved!) but head lights - this is a simple fix. I feel that a lesson unspoken is head light ranging. There exists, a dial, switch or setting, usually highlighted by a headlight with some arrows and numbers. It’s often overlooked but it is important.

We’ve all been driving down a dark, narrow, winding country road wishing only that we could see more than a few feet in front of us. (Maybe for a few extra feet each side of us!).

Well some people think they’ve found the solution in our little friend, the ranging switch. Yes, if you set it to it’s extreme, your vision is drastically improved. Your path ahead is illuminated for light years before you! Amazing, fantastic, problem solved, right? Well, not exactly. You see, this extended illumination is achieved by easing your dipped headlights. So your dipped headlights are no longer so dipped. In fact, they are almost full beams now, blinding everyone who has the misfortune of driving towards you! So why does the setting even exist? Well, the heavier your vehicle, the closer your headlights are to the ground and therefor the shorter their range. So if you have the whole family onboard, fresh back from their month long trip and all of the associated baggage, you may need to shine those beams out further. But when it’s just you, bouncing along in your empty car, you don’t need to illuminate the entire county, so drop those lights! If the road is I drive able because you can’t see far enough ahead, I’m afraid you’re probably just driving too fast! (I know, definitely the unpopular opinion!)

Unless it’s foggy - but then you (sometimes) have a neat addition to your bumper. Low level, bright white shiny lights! Mostly these just reflect off of the fog and exacerbate the problem! But then, driving around london in the present day, they’re rarely actually used in foggy conditions. The reason they’re there? Because they’re extra bright! Like full beams! So guess what happens when you have them on on a clear night? You got it, no one can see! Switch them off buddy, they’re not cool - just really annoying!

These are just a few of the things that are easily remedied and rarely adhered to. Like I said, it’s not a moan, merely an attempt at enlightenment - but why not go ahead and try them? Maybe, just maybe, those few extra seconds spent will come back ten fold!

Stay safe people.

J.C. Steele
J.C. Steele
Read next: 10 Remarkable Facts Of The 18th Century That Will Surprise You
J.C. Steele

Amateur writer of fiction, revisiting something I was getting quite good at as a child. I’m desperately trying to break out of society, so eventually (hopefully) there’ll be a series of shorts on making the move to off grid living.

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