Lessons in Traffic Control: A Tale of Darkest Suburbia

Let me give you the casualty count first: three relatively minor abrasions, two even more minor hematomae, one mildly bruised hip, one pair of black twill trousers, and possibly one formerly white handkerchief. Total medical treatment: three ordinary adhesive bandages and a bit of antibiotic ointment, plus X-rays confirming that the hip bones were and are undamaged, Evidently there’s nothing useful one can do for annoying little blood-blisters except wait for them to wither away.

Now, you ask, what did I do to earn this entirely unimpressive roundup of injuries – was it reckless roller skating, a minor argument with an electric shaver, or perhaps an unfortunate encounter with a neighbor’s beagle?

No, the truth is this: I was hit by a car.

I may have noted previously that it’s about a five minute walk from my front door in Darkest Suburbia to the nearest pair of bus stops (one each for the westbound and eastbound bus). As you might expect, these are located on opposite corners of a busy intersection, in this case that of a major arterial road (with a state highway number that no one ever uses) and my somewhat less busy minor arterial side street. Both arterials are fitted with left-turn lanes and the attendant traffic lights…but the light cycle is such that northbound pedestrians get a (very short) WALK signal at the same time that southbound cars making left turns get a green light.

The designers of this cycle, perhaps realizing that it is something less than pedestrian-friendly, have put a sign next to the left turn signal, reading “Left turn YIELD to traffic on green”. For a wonder, this actually seems to work most of the time. This past Wednesday morning, however, as I was coming home from work, the lead driver in the left turn lane did not in fact YIELD, nor did she evidently realize that she should have YIELDed until the front corner of the metallic-green four-door sedan was invading my personal space.

I, meanwhile, realized that she wasn’t YIELDing, but thought that she was aiming for the far right westbound lane and would come in behind me. No such luck; I thereupon failed my saving throw vs. dodging, but luckily made the one for landing properly – a quick roll, no major skidding or head impact of any kind. The driver did stop at once at the point of impact, so when I got up I walked around the front of her car and made a pointed remark about the purpose of YIELD signs. I then finished crossing to the north side of the road while she pulled over onto the south shoulder. It took only a couple of minutes for a motorcycle officer, a police SUV, a big “Paramedic Unit” fire truck and an ambulance to show up. The SUV unit spent all its time with the green sedan’s driver; meanwhile, the motorcycle officer took down my story while the paramedics applied the necessary three adhesive bandages, sent the ambulance on its way, and then went on about their own business. Once the motorcycle officer had finished conferring with his colleagues across the road, he handed me a copy of his incident report sheet, indicated that he’d written the driver a ticket, and we all went our separate ways.

I should note here that the driver apologized profusely and sincerely both before and after the police activity.  This will not stop me from sending the appropriate bills to her insurance company.  OTOH, I think she realizes just how lucky she is to have caused so little harm, and I’m prepared to count that a lesson well learned.

As for me, I finished my five-minute walk home, washed up and reapplied fresh bandages, put two bloodstained garments in the wash (with wholly successful results!) and took a sufficiently long nap that I missed my usual Wednesday dinner engagement. I did, however, wake up soon enough to decide that Urgent Care ought to look at the hip, and was highly relieved when the X-rays turned out not to show a tiny bone chip where it shouldn’t have been.

There are, in the end, two morals to this story. First, if you’re a driver, pay attention to YIELD signs. Second, if you’re me: get off at the other bus stop around the corner on Wednesday mornings. The walk is three minutes longer, but the traffic signals are not programmed to make you a target during commuter hours.