Fredericton — Screeching tires followed by a deafening metal clang resounded from somewhere in uptown Fredericton this morning. No news outlets reported the latest crash, however, because it’s a daily occurrence: the roundabout has seen dozens of minor accidents and even full-on collisions since it was constructed.
And the accidents are hardly centralized to that particular traffic circle; day after day all across the city there are fender-benders caused by — of all things — politeness, according to a report by the government’s Transportation and Infrastructure branch.
“If people would stop being so damned nice, traffic would be unimpeded in the capital,” said Randall Harvey, the GNB engineer who commissioned the report. “But instead of following the rules, drivers slam on their brakes to let other drivers get ahead of them, or to let pedestrians cross the street, causing a pileup behind them. It’s chaos.
“We’ve had cameras up all over the city for the past year, and have observed that Fredericton drivers are both completely incompetent at operating a motor vehicle — honestly, who’s giving these people licences?! — and they’re so polite that they leave death and destruction in their wake. You’ve heard of defensive driving? Well in Fredericton it’s more like ‘inoffensive’ driving.”
Mark Harris lives uptown near the Jubilee Super Buffet restaurant. “Any time I’m going out to do some errands, I try to turn left onto Prospect, because, well, I’m a risk-taker. And guess what? Every single time, someone will completely stop traffic in the highway to let me out. That niceness does tend to hurt more people than it helps… I mean, it only really helps me. Oh well!”
Kilie Christensen is a runner who lives downtown. “When I’m about to jog across even a very quiet street, if a car is nearby it will stop and the driver will wave me across. But like, why don’t they just keep going and let me cross after they’re past? Has no one in this city heard of right of way?!”
Beth Gillis, 15, of Nashwaaksis, said she has seen first-hand what happens when drivers are too polite.
“My mom sucks at driving. Any time I’m in the car with her, I’m afraid for my life. She’s so hesitant, hitting the brakes at the slightest sound, or even if she sees a bird flying in the distance or someone walking their dog on the sidewalk,” Gillis recounted.
“One time we were getting on the bridge from Maple Street, and mom just froze up at the intersection even though she had the green light… she said she wasn’t in a hurry, and she just kept waving people by her. Eventually we got rear-ended by some guy in a pickup — our car was almost totalled! Mom really shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a car. But alas, I need to get to the mall somehow.”
The GNB report recommends that Frederictonians voluntarily re-enroll in driver’s ed. “We’re not asking for the world — no one expect you to be able to parallel park or anything that crazy,” said Harvey, “but for god’s sake, please, please learn how to merge, or at least learn the definition of the word merge.
“And stop being so polite, before you get us all killed!”