The Most Dangerous Car on the Road
That's right, I was almost run down by a Prius the other day. I was out for a run on a quiet street in my neighborhood. I happen to run there fairly often because there is no through traffic, there are no cross streets, and there is a hill of just the right length and slope on each loop about just under half a mile.
This particular day, I was running easy on the flat section getting ready to make the turn and start my next climb. I saw some motion and heard something about as loud as a bicycle. A woman was backing out of her driveway, and clearly did not see me coming. Fortunately I saw her and cruised to the other side of the street to pass.
Was I ever really in danger? No, not really. And when she pulled up next to me at the corner, the driver rolled down her window and apologized. I, of course, told her that her car was too quiet. That was it, she went on her way and I went on mine.
But is that the solution, to make the Prius noisier? Certainly some blind people are convinced that is the solution. They are pushing for laws to force a minimum sound level from vehicles. To me, that would be like a law stating that all good, law-abiding citizens have to have gas -- nobody is allowed to be perfect.
In the case of the hybrid, the lack of air pollution would be made up for with noise pollution. Just like ring tones, hybrid drivers would get to download their favorite personal sound tracks. If I had a hybrid (which I don't, but that's a topic for another day), I'd program it to emit a sound like my car stereo was turned way up with the bass level set to 10. Of course, if you were inside my car, you'd hear nothing but Boulder's own Music For Yoga radio show, but nearby pedestrians wouldn't have to know that.
The real solution, of course, is to (gasp) pay attention. Pedestrians, cyclists, and runners need to be vigilant, of course. But drivers of these cars need to be even more careful than drivers of their noisy, stinky competitors on the road.
In fact, the Colorado State Legislature is currently debating a bill, HB 08-1104, that would have increased the minimum fine had that woman hit me from $10 to $100. That's right, in our state today, if a driver causes an injury or death due to failure to yield the right of way, the penalty is just $10-$300, with no more than 90 days in jail. With the proposed change, the fine could have gone as high a $1,000, with up to a year in jail. However, the opponents are active, and have successfully watered down the bill to have a fine of just $400, to require two offenses before the "big" misdemeanor penalties set in, and to have the law expire in three years, when I guess they hope the Republicans will once again own the state house. That's right, the fact that someone can be charged with a misdemeanor offense after being at fault for running someone over twice seems too dangerous to keep on the books for more than three years!
As I understand it, the biggest opponents to this bill are truckers, who fear losing their jobs. I'm not sure I follow their argument, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that truck drivers who are at fault for hitting cyclist and motorcyclists would be more likely to lose their licenses. Makes me cry. If you cannot pay attention and drive safely, whether you drive a semi, a Prius, or a bicycle, you should not be on the road.
End of story.