[The following editorial was originally posted on www.macclenny.com forum boards in December of 2006. It was the first of a 3-part series about how the increase of population in a small, country town had directly led to an increase of careless driving by many. Obviously, since the audience was for a local town, many of the references may be obscure to everyday readers, but no doubt, and especially if you come from a town in the same predicament as Macclenny, you will see some similarities around you.]
It has come to the attention of many residents of Baker County that Macclenny is growing by leaps and bounds. With new stores on the front-burner, ready to be built (as well as those freshly built, such as our new Wal-Mart Supercenter), we are looking less and less like the small town, backwoods community we used to be. This has been good for many things. But, it has also brought certain unavoidable (and obvious) annoyances.
My primary annoyance is the somewhat amazing circumstance that some of Baker County's residents somehow forgot how to drive. They obviously know enough to pass the state's requirements to have a license (or did at one time). However, this would amount the knowing the different of green and red.
Now, I'm not saying everyone, or even the majority, of drivers in Macclenny are borderline maniacal. In fact, I'd even go so far to say that I encounter one or two 'sane' drivers on my way to work every morning. I know that most vehicle operators intend to drive safely and correctly, but I believe the pressures of a growing community, and subsequent growing number of cars and (especially) trucks, has caused even the levelest-headed person to become like Spongebob Squarepants driving a boat. Even I have been guilty of this from time to time. Therefore, I set aside a few minutes of my day today to compile a brief reminder to help us contemplate how we drive. And who knows--maybe this will save someone from getting a 'reckless endangerment' driving ticket.
1) Speed is relative-The signs usually help a little.
When I started driving, Highway 121 was 35 MPH all the way past US 90 and practically out to the fair grounds. Someone was kind enough to notice we have more lanes now and helped out by increasing the speed limit to 45. So class, everyone repeat with me now. ----45 MPH.---- Not 20 MPH. Not 60 MPH. Though we can easily pass or dodge to compensate for these extremes, it makes things a little easier to go if we just follow the signs. This, by extension, also includes that stretch of 121 by the schools. Did you know that it gets slower there? Amazing. Who'd have thought that places where kids cross the road multiple times throughout the day have speed decrements. The above rule can be applied here too. Best rule of thumb: watch for those white rectangular signs.
2) Lane Definitions--What the yellow lines mean.
Once upon a time, if a Macclenny driver saw yellow, it meant one of two things: A yellow light meant slow down (or speed up for some of us), and a yellow line meant "Do Not Cross" unless you are turning in to someplace on your left-hand side. Then along came the turning lane. An entire stretch of 8 to 10 feet wide concrete that drivers could actually use to prepare to turn in to a left-hand side place. However, this has obviously confused some people. For instance, the turning lane is not a PARKING SPACE. It's reasonable to expect sometimes a person has to go "half way" because of the bulk of traffic. However, much like the Basketball Shot Clock, you are expected to do SOMETHING after so long. It's a tad unreasonable if you're coming out of [the old] Wal-Mart turning left to make sure it's clear back to Waffle House before getting back into the flow of traffic. As a corollary, however, I would prefer you not pull out in front of me so that I have to (once again) test my Anti-Lock Braking System (tm). Once again, balance is needed. And for the love of God, please do not pass me in the turning lane!
3) Where the Intersection begins... Anybody?
Some have keenly observed that an intersection is actually shaped like a box. This could be perhaps those in charge of road development have actually put a box in the middle of every intersection. This may be confusing to some, so I would like to explain what this box is for. If the traffic light is red, you must stop before entering said box. This includes your tire, bumpers, and definitely the chassi of your car. Rolling stops also do not count in the big book of traffic laws (this is actually something I happen to be guilty of... bad me). The biggest occurrence of this violation come from "psychic drivers". These individuals try to "time when the lights will change". What actually ends up happening is that the driver is smack-dab in the middle of the intersection when the light DOES turn green. This is provided it does turn green and not give your adjacent associates a green arrow. Please hold one for one more parsec of a second so that you verifiably have a green light before proceeding. I, as well as the Florida State Patrollers, will be grateful.
4) Something I learned back in Kindergarten--Be Nice.
The other day I was at the intersection of Lowder and Hwy 121, in line like usual, when I noticed someone in the turn lane opposite Wachovia, wanting (what it would appear) to turn around to the other direction. Wanting to do my good deed of the day, I left enough space between me and the car in front of me so that he could squeeze in. Instead of getting in front of me, he shot over to the right (empty, because it ends right there) lane and blatantly forced himself into the other lane at the light. This, of course, was uncalled for. However, this happens in many situations around town, and even more often it would seem. Treating their vehicle much like James Bond treated his Astin Martin in every chase scene the movies portrayed, drivers hurl their cars into spaces that practically defy physics. Needless to say, Advanced Autos better stock up on brake pads over the next few years. Patience is a virtue and my horn needs a rest. Please be nice.
5) And Finally, for the love of everything Decent, PAY ATTENTION!
Put the cell phone and the Big Mac down. Leave the song alone, no matter how annoying Toby Keith is. Stop arguing with your passenger, just let her/him be right for five seconds. The piece of paper in your floorboard was there when you got in, just leave it alone for now. If you have a laptop open in the seat next to you, why are you driving to begin with? The book or newspaper will not change when you get out of your car. The witty marquee sayings aren't all that clever. The joggers are there for exercise, not for horn blowing practice. There is no life-threatening need for mints, gum, snacks, drinks, or anything that involves unwrapping, untwisting, or placing in front of your face while you open your mouth.