The road warriors are back at Glendale Community College, and our city’s few remaining law-abiding drivers are once again at risk of life and limb while in proximity of the school. With thumbs a texting, arms akimbo on the steering wheel, a Red Bull in the drink holder, windows down and the CD player blasting away, our young speedsters clock in at 35 mph through the parking lot, accelerate with a screech around the turn out of the college onto Mountain Street, Glendale Avenue, Cañada Boulevard or Verdugo Road.
Texting, of course, precludes use of a turn signal when cork screwing around a corner or changing lanes. And the object of the lane change is to ride a foot off your rear bumper. And even if he or she could, this young driver doesn’t know how to activate the turn-signal indicator. The Department of Motor Vehicles manual long ago did away with the hand signals we old guys had to learn, and the only hand signal these youngsters seem to know involves one finger.
It didn’t receive much play in the media, but one of the measures in the original stimulus package, enthusiastically supported by the auto insurance lobby but unfortunately rejected in committee, was a “Cash for Crunchers” program designed to put cash in the pockets of college students while increasing the survival rates for the rest of the driving and walking public. The program would have been implemented on a trial basis in several of the more dangerous driving cities, and Glendale was right at the top of the list.
Here’s how it would have worked: Any driver age 17 to 25 would be paid a stipend to stay off the road at least one day a week. Payments would be calculated on the basis of age, the number of “crunches” the individual had caused and the number of moving violations. The younger the driver and the more accidents and violations, the bigger the paycheck. BMW, Mercedes and SUV drivers would rate at the very top of the dollar chart for the “cruncher” program. And an extra cash bonus would be awarded to those unable to see over the dashboard.
The “Crunchers” program is of course a figment of my imagination, but the driving problem in Glendale is a very real one, as the never-ending stream of daily letters to the editor confirms. Many of the youngsters navigating Glendale’s streets are reckless and dangerously impatient. They keep auto body shops and emergency rooms in business, pedestrians in fear and Glendale auto insurance rates high.
And their parents are often the “exemplary” models for their dangerous behavior. Stretching the boundaries of multi-tasking seems to be a challenge among many adults. Dad still uses the hand-held phone while in heavy traffic and can occasionally be found with the Wall Street Journal spread across the steering wheel. Mom has logged enough hours putting on makeup behind the wheel while rolling to and from a stop light to earn her cosmetology certificate. The adept removal of curlers, combing and spraying of hair prompts one to wonder why automakers have never thought to install a pullout sink for Mom’s use. Most disturbing of all is the rudeness and lack of civility Glendale drivers display toward one another. The unwillingness to give the other guy a break, or to acknowledge with a wave of courtesy extended, is now the norm. And don’t get me started on use and abuse of the horn!
To those Glendale youngsters who drive our streets safely, are mindful of the harm they can potentially cause and are respectful of their fellow drivers, I say thank you. Unfortunately, you are in the minority.
PAT GRANT has lived in Glendale for more than 30 years and was formerly a marketing manager for an insurance company. His column appears on the second Wednesday of the month. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.