January 1st ushered in a new wave of laws across the country, many of which involve distracted driving. It’s no different here in Connecticut, where our politicians have begun cracking down on unsafe motoring practices.
One such law aimed at eliminating a common winter hazard states that drivers must now remove all snow and ice from the hood, roof, and trunk of their car or face a fine of $250 to $1,250. This is a good thing. After a snowstorm here, it’s not unusual to find yourself driving video-game style, swerving left and right, to avoid the home-plate-sized chucks of ice launched from the vehicle in front of you or plowing ahead temporarily blinded by a Star Wars-brilliant blast of the white stuff or both at once.
That’s why I’m glad to see our representatives finally recognized these obstacles for what they are: a detriment to maintaining optimum commuting speed. I mean, how can drivers tool along at the unposted but generally agreed upon 80 miles an hour when they have to worry about an unexpected avalanche? 75 maybe, but 80? no way.
While this law is a good beginning, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Due to the quirks of our highways and byways—from super raceway I-95 to the narrow, hilly, winding back roads—there are many other harrowing and absurd driving distractions I’d like to see our state government deal with. One concerns Connecticut’s diverse population.
On any day at any given time, you may encounter on our roadways deer, chipmunks, turkeys, groundhogs, raccoons, possums, crows, seagulls, and of course squirrels. Each of these denizens of our great state has their own rules for the road, but I think it’s time for them to be rounded up and formally instructed by the DMV. Their punishment for noncompliance? No free access to bird feeders ought to put a little fear into ‘em.
Chipmunks, however, get a free pass. They already know how to run pell-mell across the road without looking right or left to avoid an oncoming car. Deer, on the other hand, would need to take the advanced course as they seem to have a “surprise party” mentality to the road—hiding patiently in the woods and then leaping out in front of unsuspecting drivers. Groundhogs and possums? Come on, guys. Let’s hustle! You can waddle when you get home.
Birds may take special handling. The big ones—crows, seagulls, and geese—know they can bench press your car if they have to. And they know you know. So they take their sweet time strutting across the road, occasionally pausing to toss you a haughty look before finishing their stroll. I once even had an extra supercilious seagull bombard the road ahead of me with clam shells that broke upon contact. I could hear his echoing laughter all over the neighborhood as I drove into my mother’s driveway with a flat tire.
And then there are the squirrels. What can I say? Just make up your mind already!! They start out. They stop. They go again. They dart to the middle of the road and sit up. They survey their surroundings. They quiver and sniff. Aghh, a car! They look. They run. But which way? Back—no, forward. Forward? Maybe back is better. Their talents are truly lost in the wild. They should run for office.
But animals are not the only trouble makers you’ll spy through your windshield. There are all those other nut cases behind the wheel—or handlebars—as the case may be. One day last summer during a pleasant drive along Route 9 to Barnes & Noble, Jenny’s and my witty banter and rockin’ tunes were suddenly eclipsed by a full moon. Passing by—way too slowly—was a motorcyclist whose pants were so low we could tell he didn’t listen to his mother’s advice to wear clean underwear or even any underwear at all.
As with any eye-searing astrological event, I warned Jenny to avert her eyes, but too late. If we’d had a piece of cardboard with a pin hole in it, we could have used that, but lacking this we both suffered damaging effects that linger in our nightmares to this very day. Thus, I’d be the first to support a law banning such posterior posturing. In fact, I can see the digital billboard now—COVER YOUR TAIL OR GO TO JAIL.
Maybe that motto could replace the outdated DRIVE SOBER OR GET PULLED OVER signs. Why do I say outdated? Because Wisconsin has found a way to accommodate drinking drivers, and I’m sure other states will soon follow suit. Recently, Governor Scott Walker signed into law “Peddle Pubs.” Yes, one of Hammacher Schlemmer’s “The Unexpected” and one of my very own “If I Win the Mega-Millions Lottery Wish List” items (https://www.facebook.com/kathryn.f.carroll/media_set?set=a.10201524979110529.1073741830.1358367119&type=1).
Peddle pubs are rolling bars powered by 16 happy imbibers, eight on either side of a gleaming counter where they can rest their elbows and their pints while making their way around town. Perhaps these pubs could even hang dart boards from the roof to further entertain their customers and provide a bit of excitement for passersby. My fear, though, is that these vehicles will just become the human equivalent of the squirrel. Getting 16 bleary peddlers to agree on one direction? “Let’s go right.” “No, left!” “Straight ahead, straight ahead!” “Backward!” “To a restroom!”
You know, now that I think about it, until the Connecticut General Assembly resolves these many road risks, I’m going to walk.