Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Hear ye, all women and others of diminished capacity

So I'm reading today's Nation newspaper and I come across an article on the Comment page. It's accompanied by a photo of one of our roundabouts, and called The correct Way to use a multi-lane road. And so I think "Finally. Someone with some authority is going to wake drivers up to some of the mistakes they've been making on our fairly new multi-lane motorways, and perhaps fewer people will die on the streets." And I suppose that's how it was intended, but it took a couple a very, very wrong turns. (See what I did there?)

The article is quite terse, and even sounds a little angry. And honestly, doesn't make much sense. The writer suggests that on a dual roadway, the right lane is always and only for overtaking the traffic on the left, and that once right lane drivers have overtaken, they should exit onto the left lane. Now I understand the concept. It reduces to this: the right lane is a fast lane. (Apparently I'm wrong, as you'll see.) If you intend in the short term to be going faster than the other drivers, the right lane is yours. When/if your pace normalizes or matches that of the average of other drivers, then you should switch to the left. At the end of the article, we're told, again tersely: there is no such thing as a slow lane and fast lane, which, following the earlier explanation, isn't strictly true. By definition, if the right lane is for overtaking, it is a fast lane, or at least a faster lane than the left.

But I suppose the ill-explained point is that you shouldn't take the right lane if you intend to keep pace with the average speed of traffic, or if you simply intend to 'drive fast'. The point is to overtake. Although, if none of the other drivers in the right lane understands this, you pretty much end up trying to overtake but with nowhere to go, because the driver in front of you is probably thinking she can hang out in the right lane since no one's going much faster than anyone else, as is the driver in front of her, and the driver in front of him. (And this will also tend to happen since, in a country the size of Barbados, there are approximately 5 centimeters on the motorway between roundabouts. So somebody who is not overtaking will end up in the right lane. It has to happen.) And so, apparently, the hideous cycle unfolds, with the undesirable effect of blocking the overtaking lane and therefore ending humanity as we know it.

And then we're told:

If you are being overtaken by traffic on the left you are creating an
obstruction...and...encouraging the dangerous practice of overtaking on the
left and zig-zagging through traffic.

So understand this: if you ever find yourself being overtaken by some impatient buffoon who is breaking traffic rules and the speed limit by overtaking on the left, you are to blame. It means that you must be too slow and stupid to know not to block impatient buffoons. And it is always your fault, because no one who finds themselves zig-zagging through traffic is ever wrong.

And then the writer goes on:

If you are in the right lane and the lights of the car behind you are flashing
it means the driver wants to overtake or you are blocking the overtaking lane.

I love how they encourage impatience and general road rage, and place the responsibility for reckless drivers squarely on the shoulders of the rest of us who are simply trying not to die. Here's the thing: maybe if someone is flashing her lights at you, you're a bit slow for the right lane and should try and adjust, either by accelerating or merging to the left if you can (for crap's sake please don't freak out and merge into a Bico truck because that will not end well.) Or maybe the light flasher is just an entitled piece of poop who wants to intimidate every other driver off the road so she can make it to the roundabout in 5 seconds instead of the usual 7. This article, far from keeping people safe, is encouraging the worst, most reckless drivers out there to continue being reckless, and worse, validating their crude, dangerous behaviour.

So I'm thinking surely this cannot have been written by the Police Force or the Ministry of Transport and Works because the tone is so personal and angry, and because there's only a passing reference to one of the real accident causers: improper usage and poor understanding of the newly-signed roundabouts. There's also no mention of other problem-causing novelties like the new give-ways and off-ramp acceleration lanes. And then I look at the bottom and realize that it was written by C.O Williams Construction Ltd. So the whole point of the article isn't as much to save lives as it is to sulk and yell because they built this great toy and we're using it wrong. So at this point I'm starting to expect a lot less of this writer, which is a good thing, considering what comes next:

This notice particularly refers to women, taxi and truck drivers as they are usually the main offenders when it comes to blocking the overtaking lane.

Seriously? Who wrote this thing?

Even if you are of the "damn women drivers" school of disgruntlement, which I'm not going to tackle because I know I'm not going to change your mind or expand your consciousness or any of that good stuff, what is the point of flagging those people you envision as the main offenders at the end of article? It's not as if you begin: "Hey! Women, taxi drivers and truck drivers: listen here!" Clearly, by the time you've already explained all your rules, the only point of pointing out that women are the chief offenders is to say "I know you women are reading this thinking it's not you. But it's you. You are the reason we're writing this thing. So just stop it right now." And to those women out there reading this entry and snickering smugly to yourself thinking "But you know..he's right. Those other women can't drive," don't even bother, because he means you too.

If you're going to write about how to use the roads, just write about how to use the roads. Yes it's insulting to single out women (as opposed to taxi and truck drivers who are a small percentage of male drivers. You're basically saying "women can't drive. Men can drive in general, except for these special categories of male drivers), although given the overall angry, entitled attitude of the piece it makes sense and was probably written by he of the light-flashing and zig-zagging. But more than insulting, it's unprofessional and unnecessary. Does this writer envision that a woman reading this will be persuaded by the "you may think it's not you but it really is. You're a woman, see" argument?

The article is just another light-flashing, left-lane-overtaking attempt at intimidation of certain drivers, namely women. And coming from a private citizen it would be unsurprising, but from a corporate entity, it's disappointing, especially since it's presented with authority.

But you know, take this with a grain of salt because after all, I'm only a woman.


  1. Tell Sir C.O.W to stick to building the roads not suggesting how to use them. He should have also included his truck drivers in the sample.

  2. So I gather from Sir Cow's article that the right lane is only for those who break the speed limit. We all know that everyone drives at the speed limit in the left lane, and the only way to overtake the cars in the left lane would be to speed.
    In my hunble opinion this is just another stupid article by one of the Williams brothers!!

  3. A postscript to this well written (and contained) article: The following day, the Nation published a short note from C.O. Williams Construction clarifying that the 'comment' was not submitted by that entity or its PR outfit. Below it was an editor's note saying that the comment had been submitted by one Stephen Williams of C. O Willams Farms...and BTW, some months ago, the Ministry of Public Works? published a note in the Nation advising the public that motorists could use either lane to get where they were going, the implication being that there is in fact no 'fast' lane...


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