Need for speed is trouble indeed

It's 7:20 a.m. Monday, and the alarm clock once again fails to wake you up on time.

Ten minutes later, after a quick shower and mad dash to the car you find yourself in a slow approach to the intersection of Pico Boulevard (between 16th and 17th street), joining a throng of eager and anxious students in stiff formation behind the streetlight.
However, as you inch closer to the light, preparing for your turn, other students also wish to join the crowd, possibly having missed thegrowing number of cars building up on either side.

In an abrupt appeal to your kindness, they swing in front of you at the smallest hint of extra space between your vehicle and the one you initially followed. In the process of doing this, your foot suddenly slams on the brake and the vehicle stops as you and your belongings are jolted forward at the prompt arrival of the other vehicle, reducing the time you have to find parking, as well as getting to class.

Sound familiar?

For those of us driving to school in our cars, it happens all the time, often
without a signal or any other warning given from the other person beyond their sharp cut into your lane (or path towards the streetlight).

This is just one of the many traffic scenarios Santa Monica residents (and SMC students) deal with when cruising the concrete canals of our city,

indeed Los Angeles as well. This is a dilemma that has plagued Southern Californians for quite sometime, as a boom in population has brought more drivers and far more heavily congested roadways than ever before.

Although such is common and understandable to most (everyone has to go to work, school, daycare and so forth), the rising amount of ignorance and carelessness on the road is not.

True we all have places to go, things to do, but our trip to those places and things should not be tinged by people who see an opening barely ahead of us and cut right in without a single warning (such as at a traffic signal), or carefully enter your lane after you give permission and fail to wave their hand or signal any gratitude for the consideration.

Reasons behind this fall mainly on impatience (30 seconds more can mean the world to some drivers) and becoming too preoccupied with other tasks (like answering the call that can't wait an extra minute). The latter divides the attention of the driver while the first prompts them to waive state laws in order to make up for tardiness or procrastination.

The end result of either makes driving conditions much worse for those around them, a problem that cannot be solved unless or until some type of enforcement (such as a ticket, perhaps) is made to resolve the issue.

To understand just how bad driving around SMC has become, research was conducted on the abundance of accidents and other traffic-related incidents occurring in our neighborhood.

The end result was very interesting.

In January of this year there were only two traffic incidents, both without injury. In February the number rose to four, then more than doubled in March. Accidents in March became so frequent, three separate collisions occurred on March 8, roughly two weeks ago. One of them left a victim with minor injuries on 18th street; the other two were hit-and-runs.
The very next day, March 9, another three accidents took place, all hit-and-runs.

When asked about these events, Sgt.Kurt Trump, an SMC police officer for more than 17 years, replied straightforwardly.

"It is careless and inconsiderate," he said in his office Thursday afternoon. Hit and runs are often caused by those desperate to park their cars, who misjudge how their vehicle would fit in between two others, and thus make a mark or dent that often leaves more damage on the parked vehicle than the one that struck it.

"We are finding that students are not leaving notes upon hit-and-runs-violating state law," said Trump.

Which is, in fact true.

In the wake of any accident,California state law requires drivers to leave a note with insurance information on the hit vehicle if the other driver is not present, and that is among the lessons taught in driver's education today.

The failure of drivers to comeforward and take responsibility for their actions has led victims to either pay high repair costs or have a new dent added to their cars.

Neither sound appealing, but it is something that occurs often (almost daily) due to one mistake made and the fear of being caught for it. For those who are apprehended after a hit-and-run, the most common excuse heard by officers is, "I didn't know I did any damage."

If one person bumps into another car, regardless of speed, chances are that the vehicle hit will react in some way (such a shake or wobble of some sort). It is doubtful that you did no damage at all to that vehicle.

Yet there was one incident where a student actually came forward after hitting a car with the other driver not present, it occurred not too long ago in the Santa Monica Airport Shuttle Lot.

"That is truly a rarity," said Sgt. Trump when asked of the event. He seemed to look very highly upon this particular individual, as would any
law-abiding citizen.

Hit and runs aside, another behavior routinely observed is "waiting," when a driver parks their vehicle off to the side and waits for a person to enter the lot and requests their space.

The SMCPD does not promote this, and it is strongly discouraged.

If caught "waiting" in the parking lots, students will be asked to move by police officers. Why is it that people cannot bear to wait an extra few minutes (or even leave early) and so act roughly and carelessly on the streets?

Have people really gotten to the point where it really is "everyone for themselves"?

The answer seems clear to those who were interviewed. SMC Sophomore Phillip Ton agreed with the growing rudeness on the roads,

"The most dangerous point is the streetlight on Pico Boulevard near Drescher Hall. People are always cutting each other off to get into the parking structure," he said.

Freshman student Elnara Tatoglu shared that view. "I think they need to build more parking structures," she said, as she studied outside. "It's bad in the morning; people are like hungry sharks."

Tatoglu said she's observed fights breaking out over one person stealing the parking spot of another, and has been tardy in the past due to the lack of sufficient parking spots.

A total of 17 accidents have been reported within the last three months, the most coming from this month (March has 11 incidents to date). With the rise of impatience comes the rise of danger for pedestrians crossing the roads (especially on corners where vehicles turn right).

It seems impossible for people today to put down their cell phones (wireless or not) and focus on the road. It's out of the question to consider using a traffic signal to merge, and beyond difficult to slightly wave a hand to the driver behind you to say thanks for their courtesy after moving in front of them.

Impatience and ignorance, combined with other factors (such as reckless driving and driving while intoxicated) have morphed Santa Monica's roadways (especially those centered around SMC) into a bustling challenge unto itself.

Forget about reaching school on time - better hope no one bumps you from behind or robs you of a parking spot, it would be strange if neither
happened at all.