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road sage

They were gunning it. I was waiting to turn left on a six-lane street and the Mazda (I think it was a Mazda) was doing around 90 km/h in a 60 km/zone. If the vehicle was going the speed limit or close to it, I would have had time to make my left turn, but there was no way I was going to risk making that move in front of a car going that fast. As the Mazda neared the intersection it suddenly slowed – almost braking – but kept enough speed to creep through the yellow light. I waited until the next green to turn left.

I’d just encountered a Speed Chicken.

The Speed Chicken (not to be confused with the restaurant “Speed Chicken” in Cochabamba, Bolivia) is a variety of driver who goes full-on Michael Schumacher on any straight-away but then (terrified by the acceleration) slams the brakes just before hitting an intersection. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing that they slow down; it’s the speeding beforehand that’s irritating and dangerous.

You find Speed Chickens anywhere you have a long stretch of road unmarred by stop signs and traffic lights. The Speed Chicken sprints from one light to the next, unaware that by speeding they are only decreasing their travel time by a few seconds. They are also oblivious to the fact that speeding between lights burns more fuel.

Speed Chickens are the result of two factors. The first is simply terrible driving. These motorists should not only be prohibited from operating a motor vehicle, they should not be allowed to use sharp cutlery. The second is the expression of pent-up frustration caused by traffic congestion. For instance, the Speed Chicken spends 25 minutes in bumper-to-bumper gridlock. Once they hit a patch of open road they over-compensate and blast four or five blocks at a high clip.

The antithesis of the Speed Chicken is the FOMY (Fear of Missing Yellow).

A FOMY drives the speed limit or crawls along below it and, when they are approximately one hundred feet away from the intersection, they see a yellow light and decide to put pedal to the metal. The FOMY shoots through the intersection like a rocket reaching for outer space.

FOMYs pull this stunt because they are confused by the law. It’s not illegal to drive through a yellow light; however, you must stop for a yellow light unless it is unsafe to do so.

In Ontario, the law states that “A yellow – or amber – light means the red light is about to appear. You must stop if you can do so safely; otherwise, go with caution.” In Alberta, “Drivers approaching an intersection with a solid (not flashing) yellow traffic control light must bring their vehicles to a complete stop before the stop line or crosswalk, unless a point has been reached at the intersection where stopping cannot be done safely.”

When would it be unsafe to stop at a yellow light? According to the Burnaby RCMP, it’s unsafe when it would mean:

  • Stopping in the middle of the intersection
  • Stopping in the crosswalk
  • Being rear-ended by another vehicle

There are very simple ways to avoid running yellow lights. The FOMY do the opposite.

  • They do not adjust their driving for the conditions of the roadway when approaching an intersection.
  • When approaching an intersection, the FOMY press their foot on the gas pedal and grin like fiends.
  • FOMY never look to see if the pedestrian traffic control devices are flashing “do not walk,” which could indicate the traffic light is about to change.
  • As the FOMY approach an intersection, they ensure their attention is focused elsewhere rather than on the intersection ahead.

The FOMY are more dangerous than Speed Chickens by far. Speed and intersections don’t mix.

According to the Federal Highway Administration in the United States, more than “50 per cent of the combined total of fatal and injury crashes occur at or near intersections.” Transport Canada statistics show that “27 per cent of fatalities and 19 per cent of serious injuries involve speeding” and “30 per cent of fatalities and 40 per cent of serious injuries occur at intersections.”

The best way to avoid earning a nickname is to drive the speed limit and show great care when approaching an intersection. Don’t be a Speed Chicken. Don’t be a FOMY. Be an upstanding citizen and conscientious driver.

It looks better on your social media profile.

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