I’ve decided that it’s time for me to run for Mayor of Long Beach. I will be a one-platform candidate, and if elected, I will fully fund a program called “Long Beach Learns to Drive.” Unequivocally, Long Beach has the worst drivers of anywhere in the country – if you took a random sample of ten drivers ranging from poor to downright dangerous, nine of them are piloting autos on the streets of Long Beach.
I know what you’re thinking – “Absolutely not! (Fill in the blank) has the worst drivers!” And yes, terrible drivers are not unique to Long Beach. Georgia drivers were infamous for leaving half-mile gaps between cars at exits. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen a traffic back-up caused by eight cars. Charleston drivers (mostly tourists) seem to think their cars are akin to tour buses; they will slow down to a veritable crawl to see the sights. And God forbid you get behind a car behind a horse-drawn carriage – there’s no such option as passing! Massachusetts – it’s no secret why people refer to its drivers as “Massholes.”
Red lights and stop signs cannot be taken for granted in Long Beach; their existence does not guarantee that cars will stop at intersections. We’re not even talking pause and roll – drivers blatantly plow through them. The road I live on is one-way on each side, with parking spots lining the median on both sides. If you are essentially making a left hand U-turn (visualize it as going from west to east, or opposite), you are supposed to stop at double red lights. If you get lucky, people will stop at one, but rarely both – hence, the ubiquitous “Long Beach lefts.” This becomes especially annoying when you see a parking spot on the opposite side of the street – while you know you are competing against the cars going in the opposite direction, the cars behind you shouldn’t be able to nab your spot. Oh, but they do. While I wait (im)patiently at the red light, someone opts to take a Long Beach left and steals the parking spot I was eyeing.
Another great thing about my street is that there is a traffic light at every block. People decide that once they hit a red light, that is a green light to use their BlackBerry, make a phone call or fix their makeup. Then, of course, the light changes and there is a five second lag. It’s just enough for that person to make the light, but long enough for you to miss that light and the subsequent fifteen lights.
I’ve never seen a traffic jam caused by people making a left hand turn until I drove to the train station in the morning. People invent lanes, with no rhyme or reason to make a left hand turn. Once they make the left, they are either going to (a) take a sharp right down a side street to park, (b) try to pull up in front of the train station, where there appears to be no open spaces for letting someone out, or (c) turn into the right lane, as they should, to go to the train station. This should be simple enough, but it is cause for a pile-up each and every morning. “I want to make a sharp right, so I’ll invent a turning lane all the way to the left!”
“Long Beach Learns to Drive” would start with the basics – green lights mean “go” and not with a five second delay. Red lights and stop signs mean “stop” and they’re not optional. Blinkers are on your car for a reason – use them. “No passing” on a one-lane road does not mean “passing is okay if there is a parking spot available” and use your blinker if you’re looking for a parking spot. There is no need to arbitrarily slow down to five miles an hour with no obvious intention.
Long Beach – learn to drive!