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  • Mark Drolette

On the Lighter Side: Hey, Sacramento drivers, give pedestrians a brake

Published: Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3E
Last Modified: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 - 9:19 am

I had another near-death experience recently. No, I didn't run into an ex-wife. (That's not easy, either, considering there's a trio of 'em.) Nope, what I mean is, I almost got run into. More accurately, run over – by a car, while crossing the street. This has happened to me, oh geez, maybe a dozen times now, give or take 70 million. But that's what I get for having the nerve to cross with a green light.

I live in downtown Sacramento, prime property for pickin' off pedestrians. In addition to nearly being flattened the other day by two young women (one of whom was ostensibly driving) paying more attention to themselves than to others (imagine), twice I've turned around while legally in a crosswalk only to discover a vehicle bearing down on me, stopping just in time as I, panicked, placed both hands on the hood, trying frantically to fend off a splattery (f)end(er).

I will say I'm struck by how huge-o even a Yugo appears when one's about to be smushed by one. Thankfully, that's all I've been struck by so far, but my close encounters of the T-Bird kind have been way too close and encounter-y. (Although, strangely, my laundry guy seems not to mind.)

It's a weird feeling thinking you're moments from dying. I remember standing at the altar, I'm sorry, sitting in the upper deck at Candlestick Park, awaiting the start of the third game of the 1989 World Series. Then: Earthquake! As we all, helpless, shook, rattled and rolled for 15 interminable seconds, my life flashed before my eyes: how I still had so much to do, so many to marry. Even though (spoiler alert) I lived, I suddenly had a greater appreciation for life, and only half-wanted to kill myself after the Giants played dead once the series resumed.

But it's one thing to be whacked by Mother Nature, another to be snuffed by someone else's mom. I don't want to say people are self-involved these days, but I'm certain I'll never forget the driver of a big SUV who, as she whizzed by me with an entire two feet to spare as I was mid-crosswalk, thereby drawing my outraged protest, retorted loudly out her window as she sped on: "Late for work!" Oh, OK, in that case …

But what else can one expect from Sacramento drivers, who many feel are the worst anywhere? Which is saying something, given the lethal motoring "skills" I witnessed while living in Costa Rica for a year, where, apparently, every citizen swears a (spilling) blood oath before being issued a driver's license. (That is, if they are issued there.)

I can't be too self-righteous, though, about our own menacingly myopic motorists. I've had my share of brain cramps. (Three marriages. Hello!) Spaced out behind the wheel at a red light one day, I robotically accelerated on the green before braking suddenly upon detecting movement to my right: a guy in a glacially paced wheelchair had begun crossing with the light but still wasn't halfway across. Finally, he passed safely by, but I was horrified to think I'd nearly squished him. Far worse, of course, was that now I had to quit being so sanctimonious about other drivers' rude 'tudes. (Well, at least for a day or two.)

Among U.S. metropolitan areas with at least 1 million residents, ours is the 21st deadliest for pedestrians, according to Transportation for America, a group dedicated to "creat(ing) a safer, cleaner and smarter transportation system that works for everyone."

Blowing blindly past cars already stopped to let pedestrians cross; making rolling right turns (without even glancing at the sidewalk); swooping aggressively close by, either just in front of or right behind, pedestrians in the crosswalk – I've seen all of this and plenty more by drivers trying to shave that super-precious millisecond from their trip time. Naturally, never once have I seen any of these manslaughterers-in-training popped by cops. Me? I pull a tag off a pillow and there's a knock at my door.

But I'm not looking for vengeance, I'm just asking for a brake. How about it, Sacramentans? How 'bout following the rules of the road before more of us pedestrians get mangled or killed crossing the street? 'Cause, trust me: if I can stop getting married all the time, you can surely stop at a crosswalk.

I'm thinkin' that's a proposal we all can live with.

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