In the USA this past week we learnt that the authorities were finally going to begin cracking down on distracted drivers and enforce the law against using cell phones and other hand-held devices while driving. Surely no one can argue the need for tougher measures. Surely no one can argue that they drive just as safely as the rest of us do when they are holding and speaking on a cellphone or, worse, texting someone from a handheld device. But, you know, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where I live there is another driving law that needs to be better understood, obeyed and enforced if necessary. And that is the command to yield before entering a highway or rotary.
It’s a strange little word, I admit. And maybe that has something to do with it. After all I am convinced that a great number of people simply do not understand what the word means. So I’ll be direct. Yield means, slow down, proceed with caution, and give way to traffic if necessary. It shocks me to witness time and time again the misunderstanding or misinterpretation of this simple traffic law principally on the cape’s main highway and at the Bourne, Hyannis and Orleans rotaries (just to name three I know). It is amazing how often drivers coming onto the highway or rotary do not even glance over at the traffic already speeding along their left side and that they, by law, must take into account and safely merge with. Do I need to define merge as well? Slowing down, having a look and then advancing when safe should the rule, not the exception. It is the law after all. Stopping altogether should also be required if there is no way to safely enter the highway or rotary. Wait your turn, in other words.
Buy many US drivers don’t seem to understand the word yield. I think they think it means caution and nothing more. But what it most certainly does not mean is that you have the right of way over the traffic already on the highway (or in the rotary) and they must make way for you, slow down for you or, worse, switch to the fast lane to let you in.
I’m sure many have seen the You Tube video of the woman on an American highway forced from her lane by an oncoming car and into the side of a larger, faster car in the other lane. The result of this collision was a crash highlighted by at least 12 rolls of her car as she was bounced off the highway. Miraculously no other car was hit, and the woman driving the struck car was only slightly injured. Her car of course was totaled. And as if to add insult to injury the car that had entered the highway illegally and caused the crash never saw a thing and only disappeared down the road ahead of the carnage behind him.
I know we’re all in a rush these days. It’s Christmas and there is lots for us to do. But I’d like to just take this opportunity and suggest we all just have a little more patience on the road and work with everyone else to keep things safe and insure we all get home for Christmas. And we could all take a great step towards this if understood just what is meant by the simple word yield. Slow down, proceed with caution, give way to traffic and, if necessary, stop altogether. Is it that difficult to take these precautions and avoid a potentially horrific accident?