As I was heading to work this morning along Highway 12 in Santa Rosa, I couldn’t help but notice the driver ahead of me – a senior in a blue knitted beanie – was having a hard time keeping her sedan on course. I’m not sure if she was distracted by something on the seat next to her or what, but twice she quickly corrected as her car drifted into the lane on the left and once she swerved a half-car deep into the bike lane on the right. Fortunately, no one was on the side of the road at that moment, although there often are walkers and bikers at that hour.
Maybe it was because I was keeping a close eye on this car that, after passing through the Mission Boulevard intersection, I didn’t notice another one – pulling up on the right of me!
Let’s just say that when you’re already in the far right-hand lane, you don’t expect to see another car outside the passenger window. At first, I thought the person was just being aggressive and was planning to pull ahead into the Valero gas station. But no, the driver – in this case, a silver-haired woman in a light olive green Lexus – sailed past both driveways for Valero and kept going – soaring past the driver in the cap and continuing as if the bicycle lane was just another lane of traffic!
She continued driving this way for at least another 200 yards or so at a good clip, passing at least one more car on the right before she finally realized she was not in a lane and merged over to the left. Fortunately for her – and others – nobody was biking or walking then either. It’s fortunate because sidewalks are inconsistent along that stretch of road. But had there been so much as a car starting to pull out of a driveway, it could have been a colossal accident.
All of this brought to mind all the coverage we have had lately about senior drivers and recent accidents. It also made me think of a column we ran on Sunday by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times (“Preventing a tragedy for seniors behind the wheel”) about his struggles with trying to convince his father to stop driving. “If we took away his keys, as my mother pointed out, we’d be stealing his last bit of independence and making him miserable,” he wrote. “If we didn’t, and he hurt himself or someone else, we’d be responsible.”
It’s difficult enough trying to persuade a family member. But how do you persuade a stranger?
I’m not really sure what was going on this morning, but my advice to those who are walking or biking next to busy roads these days: Be careful. These are the days of distracted and dangerous drivers.
- Paul Gullixson