Right now, I’m annoyed at two sets of people, the ones who don’t know how to drive and the ones who can’t discern information from bullshit. They share a trait in that neither has the common sense to make good decisions. One ends up holding up traffic and, at times, threatening the safety of other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians. The other is easily misled and now threatens to undermine our health and our democracy.
First the drivers. When I went to drivers education class many, many years ago, they taught us how to make a left turn at a stop light. If there is oncoming traffic, pull halfway into the intersection with your turn signal blinking. When an opening appears in the traffic while the light is still green, make the turn. If the traffic is non-stop, wait until the light turns red, make sure the oncoming car is stopping for the red light and then complete the turn. That way, at least one car, and usually a couple, gets through every light cycle.
Today, nobody seems to pull into the intersection. I’ve sat through two or three cycles waiting for cars that won’t budge when the light turns green, despite an endless stream of cars facing them. They need to understand that, if they are in the middle of the intersection, the cars to their left and right are not going to slam into them when their light turns green. Sitting at the light is more dangerous because it backs up traffic, leading drivers to try to get around the traffic jam, especially if the line gets longer than the turn lane.
The other drivers that bother me right now are the ones who can’t figure out a roundabout. DOT put one near my house, replacing a traffic light that used to cause major traffic jams in the morning and afternoons. It’s great. The roundabout solved the problem by keeping traffic flowing. And there’s the rub. Too many people don’t understand that a yield sign, means yield, not stop.
Often, drivers pull up to the circle and come to a complete stop, sometimes waiting for cars that are on the other side of the circle to either reach them or exit first. I’ve seen other drivers who are already in the circle stop to let drivers in. That’s defeating the purpose. The goal is to keep as many cars moving as possible. Most of the time, if a car is not at the exit to your left, you can go, even if you might have to punch it a bit. The circle inherently keeps people from going too fast, but too many people lack either perception skills or faith that other drivers aren’t trying to avoid collisions.
The other group of people who are on my nerves are the anti-vaxxers. Over the past week or so, I spent a fair amount of my time breaking my rule, “Don’t feed the trolls.” I responded to people on social media who believe that vaccines don’t work and that ivermectin and other faux treatments do. They willingly believe people who have been debunked as conspiracy theorists or nut-jobs. They listen to this guy who was described as a “modern-day quack” by a top medical researcher. Or this woman, who’s been dubbed a “doctor of disinformation.” They’ve gained credibility because of the size of their followings, not the quality of their research.
Most of the anti-vaxxers lack math and critical thinking skills. They contest the effectiveness of vaccines using numbers that are just plain wrong and they listen to quacks because they aren’t perceptive enough to figure out who is legitimate and who is not. They don’t how to ask the right questions, even if they might want the right answers.
Often they chastised me for not listening to both sides, as if we’re in a political debate instead of a health crisis. The conspiracy theorists they point to have almost all been debunked as frauds and attention hounds, not serious medical researchers. Again, they derive their authority from their celebrity status or size of their social media followings. Like Fox News, they’re telling people what they want to hear, not the truth. And they’ve got a willing audience who spout their nonsense as the gospel or point to them as the authorities that they’re not.
More drivers need to better understand the flow of traffic. Yield means to allow a car that has the right-of-way to continue its path. It does not mean stop. Most drivers are not going to hit you intentionally so position yourself to make progress instead of positioning yourself to stop the flow of traffic. I think these skills can be taught in drivers education.
As for the anti-vaxxers, I’m not so sure. They’ve been fed a diet of disinformation for so long, that they don’t know how to determine what is legitimate and what is not. They’ve listened to people like Tucker Carlson play on their prejudices and they’ve embraced him because he says what they want to hear. Now, he’s playing them as fools. Fully vaxxed himself, he casts doubt about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines to people who lack critical thinking skills and, often, a basic understanding of math. We might be able to fix the driving with education, but I’m afraid it’s too late to fix stupid.