Bad Drivers and the Moral High Road

As a biker in a city with few bike lanes and intermittent sidewalks, it is terrifying just to get to school in the morning. Plus, I live in a city with notoriously bad drivers.

Chalk this one up to the “Entitled Driver Without A Clue.”

Usually this character—a younger senior citizen male, typically—has decided that the world does not need to know what direction he will turn. Using the turn signal isn’t that much work, all things considered. But why bother? It’s my street, my lane, my car.

I met the extreme version of that today.

My 10-year-old Nicolas and I were biking on our way to his first day of school. We were three minutes behind schedule, but we still had lots of time. I tend to bike beside him while he bikes on the sidewalk.

We turned up Desbrisay Crescent, a lovely little park-facing street that has a sidewalk only on one side. So we crossed the street, going against the traffic (on the left side of the street).

It is not a high traffic street, and none today because a construction worker had held up the cars in both lanes. There was a little line of cars, three or four, on the right side of the street.  After almost four seconds of waiting in the traffic line, though, one driver had had enough.

Suddenly, a silver Hyundai SUV started backing up across two lanes of traffic into a driveway that was, it turns out, right beside us. We were, in fact, blocking the driver from pulling into the random driveway to get away from the egregious traffic jam.

I shouted. Thankfully he heard, and he stopped, now wedged in a perpendicular blockade in the middle of the street.

He scowled at me, this male senior with a toothpick hanging out of his mouth.

I scowled back, and Nicolas and I kept biking to school.

At the next corner I got off the bike to stop traffic. Soon we were biking through the parking lot of an abandoned grocery store.

And then I saw a silver Hyundai SUVcoming at us through the parking lot.

He pulled up beside me—not stopping, but coasting—and rolled down his driver side window. He pulled the toothpick out of his mouth and yelled.

“What the hell are you doing biking behind a car while it’s backing up?”

Really?

I stopped the bike.

And I yelled back.

I did not swear, and I did not lie. But I was very forceful when I explained that he illegally backed two lanes across traffic without looking and without signaling and nearly hit my kid.

I could see by the look on his face that he thought it was normal to do this, and that it was up to everyone else nearby to watch out for what he was doing.

The argument went back and forth, and so I finally told him I was calling the police. He swore at me and then took off. He rolled the next stop sign, pulled a left and a quick right without signaling, and went through a residential neighbourhood.

I looked at my son, on the first day of grade six.

“Sorry about that buddy,” I said. “I probably should have ignored him.”

“That’s okay, Dad,” he said. “I thought he was stopping to apologize.”

No, this is not the kind of driver to apologize.

We talked about it for a second and decided to call the police. Our license plates on PEI are pretty easy to remember. I was able to memorize the digits “SSN” and we passed the information on to the police.

Did I do the right thing?

To be honest, I feel kind of skuzzy. Sure, I was morally in the right, and legally I had my ground. You are not allowed to back across two lanes of traffic, and a driver backing up is responsible to know what is behind him.

Plus, this guy really is a problematic driver. He will keep expecting the world to bend to his own laziness until someone gets really hurt. It doesn’t matter if he is ticketed today or kills a kid tomorrow, he will think that the world is at fault, not him.

So the only thing I really accomplished today was to get in a shouting match with a bad driver on my son’s first day of school.

See, it doesn’t matter if you are right if you do damage along the way.

Fortunately, my son was pretty forgiving. He has a pretty great story for his first day of school. When we biked up behind the school, a friend of his shouted out, “Nicolas!” My son broke out into a big, sweaty smile.

Fortunately, not much damage done. But a good reminder that there are somethings more important than being right.

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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12 Responses to Bad Drivers and the Moral High Road

  1. jj says:

    Ah-men & amen.

    I’d rather be holy than “right.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sdorman2014 says:

    thanks God you were with Nicolas.

    Like

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “So the only thing I really accomplished today was to get in a shouting match with a bad driver on my son’s first day of school.”

    Surely you also (in fact) did what was possible to give a morally – and apparently also technically – bad driver a chance to reconsider in contact with the police. You may also, practically, have contributed at least temporarily to preventing him from being quite so active a danger for awhile.

    “He will keep expecting the world to bend to his own laziness until someone gets really hurt. It doesn’t matter if he is ticketed today or kills a kid tomorrow, he will think that the world is at fault, not him.” That may be a just assessment – or conjecture. It may also be most prudent to treat it as such. Then again, dum spiro, spero – he may wise-up short of hurting or killing someone (including himself, depending on the scope of his ‘faulty’ driving). Would it have been more prudent for his spiritual welfare not (a) to explain forcefully and/or (b) report it to the police? I think that – things like that – are very hard to judge. (We had a policeman in our church who did not put a drunken pedestrian in the cell to sober up for the night with an eye to being merciful – whereupon the fellow went on directly to be killed in traffic, leaving the policeman with a lasting regret.)

    Like

  4. Dale Poole says:

    Don’t feel skuzzy. Call the police every-bloody-time! Never feel bad for protecting anyone. Consider the good lesson you provided for your son. You didn’t have to pull a weapon, or get into fisticuffs and yet you were able to present a lesson on how to sanely handle these sorts or situations. Sure you yelled – there is nothing wrong with it, when lives young and old are at stake.

    You are correct, this guy may not be moved by what you say, but say it every time just the same. Just because he likely won’t change his behaviour, the next person may well step back and reconsider their actions.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment Dale. You are probably right in all those cases.
      I did, though, lose the big picture: Nicolas’ first day. Sometimes that’s more important than being right.
      But I had a talk with Nicolas. He thought it was pretty cool overall!

      Like

  5. Tracey MacDonald says:

    While I certainly don’t condone the behaviour of the older man, you bear some responsibility here too. You stated that your son was riding on the sidewalk & you were riding against traffic @ the time of the incident. Both of those are no no’s when it comes to riding a bike. A bike is a vehicle & must follow the same rules of the road as a motorized vehicle. Unfortunately, too many cyclists aren’t following the rules, which only adds to the frustration for some drivers. Since your son is only 10, now would be a great time to teach him the correct rules of the road. Section 194 of the Highway Traffic Act deals w/ the duties & rights of bicyclists. Glad to hear no harm was done. http://www.gov.pe.ca/law/statutes/pdf/h-05.pdf

    Like

    • I do know the law, but I agree with the Cyclist group that has petitioned for children to be allowed on the sidewalk. Toddlers on the street? Children learning to bike? Doesn’t make sense.
      I do teach him, and teach him in this case to break this law. And I told this openly to the police officer.
      I don’t think if I am on the sidewalk I am protected from fines. But our sidewalks are pretty bad. I’m able to drive well on the street and anticipate island drivers.

      Like

  6. Quite the story. So, do you commute everywhere via bike?
    I just recently moved closer to my workplace and school, and am slowly making the transition to commuting via bike rather than car. And I completely agree– I’ve already had far too many close calls for my liking, and because the area/ route is still unfamiliar, I am nervous about unaware drivers every time I get on the bike. On the bright side, though, this experience has given me heightened awareness of my surroundings both when I am biking and when I am driving. Plus, being on the bike is a very freeing and enjoyable experience for me. 🙂

    Like

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