COLUMN: Needless carnage on the roads

Is it just me, or have B.C. drivers – particularly in Metro Vancouver – become even more insanely aggressive in recent years?

Judging from the results of The Leader’s Question of the Week last week, apparently so. Three-quarters of poll respondents believe the majority of drivers in this province drive dangerously.

As a veteran commuter, I’ve certainly seen it all.

There are the multi-taskers:

• The dog/baby/spouse on the driver’s lap.

• Cellphone in crook of neck, left hand on steering wheel, right hand on shifter… and a bowl of soup on the dashboard.

• Eyeliner and mascara application at red light.

• Open book splayed across speedometer.

The hoarders treat their vehicle like a home away from home:

• A clutch of Kleenex boxes block the view out the rear window while an assortment of stuffed animals create blind spots along the front.

• A mini landfill of fast food wrappers, coffee cups and other trash form ecologically questionable mounds in the slope between the dashboard and windshield.

• Wait, is that a live cat in there too?

But by far the worst are the aggressive drivers – the bob-and-weave lane-changers, the tail-gaters, the cut-off artists, the chance-taking passers and the Neanderthals who flash their high beams in brazen self-righteousness.

Where the frick is the fire?

There’s a great line in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, when long-time convict Brooks Hatlen is released from jail after more than 40 years behind bars.

As he ambles down a city street, Hatlen is overwhelmed by the change of pace that has occurred over the decades; horns blast as he is nearly run over by racing traffic.

“The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry,” Hatlen observes.

I’ll say.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night prompts today’s motorists to ease off on the gas pedal, not to mention tough new provincial legislation that can see them lose their wheels for a week and get slammed with hefty fines if they’re cruising 40 km/h above the posted speed limit.

At best, all these street sins would be baffling – or at worst frustratingly annoying – if not for the tragic consequences of such selfish behaviour.

For an example of just how bad it can get, have a look at page three in the Friday, Jan. 28th edition of The Leader.

There you’ll find the story of grieving widow Brenda Michie, who lost her “soulmate” Jim Neiss in a fatal collision in Langley last Tuesday.

Neiss, a Surrey resident and a bus driver employed by the Langley school district, was hit head-on after a dump truck hauling a “pup” trailer crossed over a double yellow line to pass a small white car in the 19800 block of 16 Avenue.

Eyewitnesses have told investigators the truck was weaving in and out of traffic in an aggressive manner before impact.

A visibly angry RCMP officer was blunt in his assessment of the crash.

“This person [Neiss] had absolutely no chance,” said Supt. Norm Gaumont, who is responsible for traffic services in Metro Vancouver.

“This person was minding his business on his side of the road.”

Police say the 62-year-old dump truck driver will likely be facing criminal charges.

But for Brenda Michie, there will be no redemption.

She was planning to celebrate her 20th anniversary with Neiss on Feb. 2, and his 60th birthday on Feb. 7.

Instead, she’s planning his memorial (Jan. 29).

Overcome with sorrow, she still expects to see her “Jimmy” when she arrives home at the end of the day. “I’m going to miss him…” she said through tears. “He was the love of my life.”

Remember those words the next time you’re tempted to punch it past the slowpoke in front of you.

They want to see their loved ones again too.

pcarlson@surreyleader.com