Monday, June 15, 2015
Cops and the 'Law'
Hey, I get it. Nobody likes being behind a bus. Yet there are certain truths which should be evident to the driving public, about sharing the road with our lumbering giants. It makes sense that if a bus stops in a place which is inconvenient (or outright illegal) to pass it, it is logical to wait until it pulls to the next stop two blocks down the road. On most routes, the road design provides passing room at many of the bus stops. Giving credit to those who possess intelligence, they will wait until it is proper (and legal) to pass a stopped bus. Others however, those of the impatient and selfish bottom of the gene pool, will pass no matter what awaits them.
One day as I ambled along a hilly road, I came up to a stop offering an intending passenger. My side of the road was one lane, bordered on the left with one of those attractive double-yellow lines. The other side of the road was blessed with two lanes, one of which was blocked by a road crew, leaving only the passing lane open. After boarding my charge and flipping on my left signal and flashing yield light, I scanned the left rear to find Lumpy Lexus ignoring the fact he was charging around me directly into the line of oncoming, 45mph traffic. Luckily for Lumpy, he stopped in time to retake his rightful place behind my billowing diesel fumes. This infuriated him. As he passed me, crossing the double-yellow, he gestured wildly, as if I was imbecilic. Of course I had to dismiss him and keep my cool. If we allow every dolt to affect our attitude, then driving safely is nearly impossible because Lumpy becomes our focus rather than driving safely. This is something I've learned the hard way.
Then there are the guardians of our public safety, the lads/lassies in blue who are charged with making sure the laws are obeyed. This is something they're trained to do, and I must say for the most part they do it very well. Portland is a fairly quiet city for its size. Not to say we don't have our share of grisly messiness, but not nearly as much as others. So you think they'd be out setting examples with their exemplary driving skills and techniques, but they are some of the worst offenders of simple traffic laws I've ever seen. Several of them have disobeyed the flashing red "Yield" sign on the back of each bus which is deployed every time we leave a stop and re-enter traffic, putting them in violation of ORS 811.167 - Failure to yield right of way to transit bus. For such a friendly city, many people aren't so friendly to their amiable and charming bus operators. We regularly are treated to one-fingered IQ results and naughtily fiery words of advice from people who disobey this law (see Lumpy story above). But when a cop does it too, driving past while texting or playing with the cruiser's on board computer, I tend to get a bit huffy. Plenty of operators have been cited for straddling the center line of our notoriously-narrow lanes, even though our buses are nearly as wide as most of the lanes we travel.
The general public, due in large part to an ignorant media which is fed its "transit news" by the transit agency itself, is unaware of how many lives we save each day through our safety and vigilance. You only hear about buses when they're involved in a traffic incident, and the headlines usually read "Car hit by bus; 120 injured; bus driver under investigation". Only under duress, when the "investigation" is over and the driver is exonerated of any blame, do you hear the reason why the collision occurred. Most of the time, accidents occur because the motoring public is about as safety-conscious as an armadillo crossing a Texas highway. Bus operators employ several safe-driving techniques to avoid collisions, several times a week. We hate paperwork, but mostly, we fear the sight of mangled bodies and the horrors associated with them. Bus operators work extremely hard to ensure everyone's safety on the road, yet we are blamed as a matter of habit, when something goes wrong.
It would be interesting to know just how many citations have been issued for disobeying this law. Surely, if the police don't even obey it, why should other motorists feel as if they should? Of course, this is not a blanket statement, because I've seen plenty of officers graciously yield to my bus after I've serviced a stop. They get a friendly wave and a thank you, because their example might just be a lesson to others around us. Probably not, but I try to remain an optimist, thank you very much.