Things that Matter: The joys and tribulations of driving
Road Rage – definition: “A motorist's uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist's irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behaviour; violent anger caused by the stress and frustration involved in driving a motor vehicle in difficult conditions”
“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile” (Variously attributed)
“Traffic signals in New York are just rough guidelines” (David Letterman)
The definition and quotations relate to some of the issues we all have in getting around in Barbados today, where there is allegedly a car for every two people – AND, it seems, almost as many ZR vans!
Fortunately, as a general rule, we’re exceedingly tolerant drivers, in spite of the many thoughtless, selfish, and often aggressive drivers on the roads. We tolerate those really kind drivers who stop at every side road in rush hour to let out six or seven drivers who are taking the short cuts and relying on those self-appointed traffic policemen. If any of you kind folk are reading this, may I remind you that the 100 drivers behind you have been in their cars for much, much longer, so one good turn is enough – you need not do fifty on one drive down Collymore Rock! My own rule is to return the good turn of someone who lets me out by letting someone else out, unless they’re driving a car with completely blacked out windows… I could be aiding and abetting a criminal going to commit a crime …
I have a few other pet peeves about drivers who cause accidents. First there are the testosterone driven young drivers who weave between cars at dangerous speeds down the highway. And then there are the drivers of all kinds who drive at 50 kilometres an hour in the overtaking lane on the right (some call it the fast lane, but some dispute that!). These “innocent” slow coaches may indirectly cause some of the accidents caused directly by the weaving speedsters, and may even induce road rage in the impatient person who’s dangerously late!
And then we come to the ZR vans. It seems inconceivable in a civilised society – and specifically in Barbados with all of our pride and industry and our boasts of every kind – that ZR drivers should be above the law; that a driver could have 100 convictions and still be driving … and that many others come close to his notoriety. Where has our system of law and order, as bogged down, delayed and disgracefully incapable of getting through its tasks as is constantly recognised by so many people from the top down, gone wrong?
ZR drivers are allowed to stop on main roads where there is an interception – a T junction – to spot a potential passenger 200 yards away and to stay there holding up a long line of traffic for a full two minutes in the hope of securing that one passenger, who cheerfully then saunters across the road while fifty drivers are delayed two minutes each; only to have the same fiasco repeated 100 yards further down the road. Where, oh where, is the justice?
But apart from these obvious problems, the big issues that cause road fatalities are well known. We ignore them and have ignored them for years, so that our road fatality rates are consistently much higher than in Europe and two or three times higher than in Britain. The big causes are drinking and driving – which we prefer not to do anything about - and pedestrian and cyclists vulnerability, which we also ignore.
Breathalyser testing and blood alcohol testing with the appropriate legislation and law enforcement dramatically reduces road accidents and road deaths. The Medical Association, the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the UWI, some law officers and Pastor Victor Roach have been raising the issue for 30 years.
Cyclists ride without lights or fluorescent clothing at night. Pedestrian crossings are more often 95 per cent faded than visible, and few have either traffic lights or even marker poles. I’ve seen conscientious drivers stop too quickly and get rear-ended as a result! The state of the crossing markings is a disgrace.
These are all problems that have obvious solutions, yet we do nothing as a society about them. They are ore examples of the dreaded epidemic of the Implementation Deficit Disorder.
But life often doesn’t seem either fair or logical! While law breaking seems to be almost a requirement for a ZR driver, what about the current circus of Donald Trump? While my friends tell me not to get involved by commenting on the US election – that it’s none of my business - I can’t ignore it any longer! So here’s a brief report …based on the plethora of opinion on the web.
The Republicans, for all their business skills, leadership skills and big money, with a number of credible, psychiatrically normal candidates for the presidency, have come up with someone described as an extraordinarily aggressive bully, whom the psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, sociologists and media have given a number of diagnoses. One marvels at his allure to those described by knowledgeable commentators as the authoritarian right wing, evangelical Christians and others, who as one commentator said, must be “just plain dumb”; but apparently, it is said, not since Andrew Jackson was there such an angry and unpredictable nominee for president.
Trump is playing to the most basic instincts of mainly white working class voters who feel disadvantaged and threatened by a whole host of imaginary threats from 'alien forces’ – Muslims, Hispanics, African American leaders or the Chinese. These folk view things in a most simplistic and paranoid way, and they revel in the distorted interpretations that Trump is feeding them. He is merely stirring the pot so that he can ride on this wave of prejudice. It is a dangerous campaign tactic, as events in Germany during the 1930s have shown. It is history repeating itself with a different set of players in a different age but with the same underlying plot of exploiting the prejudices of white working classes, and capturing attention with his outlandish behaviour.
The psychiatric consensus appears to be that his major disorder is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Many other less complimentary descriptions have been attached, to explain his many extraordinary statements, chief of which is “bully”. But as the psychiatrists say, while most bullies’ behaviour is based on insecurity and low self-esteem, Mr. Trump seems to do it simply out of pure pleasure! Bullies often get away with it because victims and observers don’t have the gumption to do anything about it!
(Professor Fraser is past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI and Professor Emeritus of Medicine. Website: profhenryfraser.com)