Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Close Call

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL
34 42.54 N 081 05.58 W

Hazards of the cruising life are not limited to those on the water.   The other day, Libby and I were walking down the sidewalk.    As we approached the entrance to Home Depot, a big SUV pulled out and stopped on the sidewalk, blocking us.

US1, the highway through they keys, is a very hazardous road.  It is narrow, has no shoulders in most places, and the traffic is heavy.  It is the one and only through road from the mainland down to Key West.   It is common that vehicles illegally pull right up to the edge of the road and wait for a chance to pull out and turn left or right.  Often, they have to wait a long time.

My safety policy in cases like this is to wait until I catch the eye of the driver before walking in front of or behind the vehicle.  Libby has a different policy, she is always deferential.  She always allows the other guy to go first, and she would always choose to walk behind the car blocking the sidewalk.

So, I stopped dead waving my hand to try to get the driver's attention.  The driver was looking left at oncoming traffic and didn't see me.  Libby started walking behind.   Suddenly, the driver turned her head right and saw me.  She started to back up to get out of the way.  Libby was just then on her starboard quarter in the blind spot and about to step one foot behind the rear bumper.    I screamed "LOOK OUT".  It worked, both the driver and Libby stopped dead. Whew, close call.

I've been  (unsuccessfully) trying for years to teach Libby that being deferential and submissive in traffic is not the safest policy.  Doing what other people expect you to do is safest.

On another occasion, we were again walking down the sidewalk.  A car exiting a parking lot pulled up and blocked our path.  The driver was looking left, talking on a cell phone, and never saw us.  This time, Libby and I were holding hands so we both stopped dead.  Then the driver started to pull out, but not 90 degrees to the traffic; she started turning right before entering the road, heading toward us.  We had to jump backward to avoid having our feet run over.  I slapped the body of the car hard as it passed by -- I hope I scared the heck out of the driver.

I believe my policy is extreme, but safest.  Never cross in front of or in back of a blocking vehicle on foot or on bicycle without first making eye contact with the driver.

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