If legislators want to get serious about traffic safety, here's a list of traffic violations to crack down on:
Speeding … ?
Believe it or not, I don't care that much about speeding in most situations. If the speed limit on the open road is 70, and someone is going 75 or even 80, it doesn't increase the danger very much. I don't speed on the interstate/highway by more than 2 or 3 miles an hour, but that's mostly because I don't want a speeding ticket: I've never had a speeding ticket, and hopefully never will. I'd drive faster if I thought I could.
However, people who speed dramatically, say 15% or more over the speed limit, should certainly be ticketed. And people who speed by any amount in residential areas, parking lots, school zones, or two-way-traffic roads should be fined severely as a deterrent. I really don't want you to smash me or my child because you were driving too fast and couldn't react in time.
I have a huge problem with people who tailgate. I simply cannot believe anyone would ever drive within a few car lengths at 70 mph. There's a simple rule I follow: the two-second rule. Simply stay 2 or more seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. I don't care what kind of brakes and tires you have, or how awesome a driver you think you are: if you are 20 feet behind my car at 70mph, and I have to brake unexpectedly (or even slow down significantly), you will hit me, and we will have a major accident.
Tailgaters must be ignorant of many things: basic physics, human reaction times, and common sense. They must be under the delusion that somehow there could never be a need to react suddenly, or that they will somehow be able to stop faster than the guy in front (and yet also somehow avoid the tailgater behind him).
Police need to aggressively ticket these selfish assholes, and remove licenses for a while of repeat offenders.
Running red lights
Much like tailgaters, people who run red lights are being dangerous and selfish. Yes, even you, the one who "sneaks through" 1/2 second before the light turns red. If my light turns green, and you're still driving through the intersection, you ran the light. Yes, even if you were in a line of cars.
This should be ticketed heavily, and remove licenses for a while for those selfish (and dumb) enough to keep doing it.
Texting, apping, phoning.
Yeah, I know, you are awesome and think can text and drive. Or you think you're safe dicking around on your "smart" phone in traffic. Call me cynical, but I don't trust your self-assessment. If you are looking at your phone, even "just glancing down", you are not paying enough attention to the road.
I will grudgingly accept talking on the cell phone in light traffic, but personally do not do it anymore, and if traffic is more that a trickle, you just call back later.
Once more, I fully support heavily ticketing people doing these kinds of distracting activities while driving.
Set the blood alcohol limit to something reasonable (something like .1%), or go to 100% field sobriety testing, and violators get their licenses taken away for a while.
Cops, am I right? OK cops, I'm mostly on your side when it comes to traffic enforcement. But we need to talk about a few things:
1) If you speed, your lights should be on. It drives me crazy when I see cops speeding down the road, 20mph or more over the speed limit. I completely understand that you have emergencies to deal with, and sometimes you have to speed to get there, but in those cases, please turn on your emergency lights.
2) Similarly, don't go through stop signs or red lights without your lights on.
3) Don't tailgate people! Once more: if you must violate traffic laws, turn on your emergency lights!
4) Don't stop people in high traffic areas: signal them to move to where you won't block traffic.
5) Please pull people over more often for tailgating and red light running! I've often witnessed some selfish jerk run a red light or drive dangerously close, and a cop is right there watching, but does nothing. Sit at any intersection and you will see people run lights… ticket them! If you see a line of tailgating cars: ticket them! What are you waiting for? "Endangering the lives of innocent people" isn't sexy enough?
6) Stop profiling: The tailgater in the BMW is much more of a threat to me that the "slightly brown" dude in the beat up Impala who might have a bag of weed in his pocket.
What can I (meaning you) do?
Not much, really. I don't speed. I don't tailgate. I don't drive drunk. I don't run red lights. I don't dick around with my phone. But, someday, someone will probably still smash me while they are doing one (or more) of those.
When someone tailgates me, I try to get out of the way, but that's not always possible. For example, if there are cars in front of me, I can't speed up (or I'm already driving the speed limit). If I'm passing a line of cars, I can't pull over (because there are cars there). When someone is tailgating me, I try to add a few seconds to my 2 second rule so hopefully I won't be sandwiched in a crash. But other than that, there's not much a safe and sane driver can do.
For red-light runners: when my light turns green, I check the traffic just a bit longer to make sure some asshat is not going to cream me.
But really, there's not much I can so. It's incredibly unfair, really: you could kill me in an instant because of what you're doing, and I can't do anything about it. Infuriating.
There is one additional small thing I do: When I see a company vehicle doing one of these dangerous things, I've made it a habit to remember the company name/number and call the company to complain about their dangerous driver. Or I do it immediately if I'm a passenger. I make sure to tell them as many details as possible, so they can get the right driver. I'm not looking to get him/her fired (though stupidly risking my family's lives might earn that), just a "you're hurting our image" talk will do fine.
If you are a safe and sane driver: good for you! If you regularly do any of the above: please think about what you are doing. I know you think you are an awesome driver (you're not), and probably complain about that "moron" in front of you who's merely doing the speed limit, but I'm not endangering you, so I'm right and you're not.