To be a good driver in NYC, you’ve got to be aware of your surroundings because you never know when a pedestrian, a bike, another car, a dog — who knows what — might suddenly appear right in your path.
I’m always on the lookout but there’s one thing I almost never do when driving the city streets — look at my speedometer. And I don’t think I’m alone; I would bet most drivers behave the same way.
There’s really no need to check one’s speedometer because the traffic is usually intense and, if I’m lucky enough to find a street that’s free of cars, I drive at what I would consider a good clip. I’m not going to do 50 mph on a residential street but neither am I going to go 25 mph. And that brings me to the city’s latest attempt to make our streets safer — lowering the speed limit to 25 miles an hour.
I have to admit that I feel the new law is irrelevant. I don’t mean to be arrogant about it but I’m going to keep doing what I’ve always done — drive at the speed I think is appropriate.
There have been a lot of cars hitting and killing pedestrians lately but not, I believe, because they are speeding. Many of these fatalities are happening when the driver is making a left. I’ve seen the videos online and the act is so egregious (the pedestrian has the light and is in the crosswalk) that I believe the drivers involved never saw the pedestrians.
Let’s be honest — there often is a little game of chicken (that shouldn’t happen) when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. Drivers tend to see how far they can go to make the turn and most pedestrians give as good as they get, boldly staking out their right to cross with dirty looks and curses. But in the videos I saw of pedestrians being hit, it wasn’t like that — rather the drivers just blew through the crosswalk as though the pedestrians were not even there.
Why is this happening? My own theory is that a lot of drivers ignore a critical blind spot when making a left. That pillar on the driver’s side between the window and the front windshield can often screen out pedestrians in the crosswalks. It’s happened to me a couple of times — particularly at night — but my wife spotted the pedestrian before anything bad happened. That’s the thing — the person seated in the passenger seat can see the pedestrian but the driver often cannot.
I believe this is a function of the widening of the car’s pillars. They used to be fairly thin but now that car companies are putting air bags in there, those pillars are growing wider and wider. It’s a big problem. Drivers need to be as attentive when making a left on a city street as they are on a highway when changing lanes at 65 mph.
There should be a public awareness campaign about these ‘new’ blind spots. I’ve never seen anything written about them but I do know one thing — UPS has its drivers avoid left turns because they are so dangerous. Everyone should be more careful. It’s not the speed, it’s the blind spot. Pay attention Mister Mayor.