Monday, June 30, 2008

Drive Friendly

Today my scooter and lift came literally an inch from being backed over by a giant SUV. Bird and I watched, eyes wide and in horror, but could do nothing. I am glad I had just disembarked. We were able to move to the striped access aisle while the Backer proceeded. I always tell my children to stand in the access aisle for their safety, but my daughter was trying to help me with a stuck lift.

Now while many people will slow to a panicked and overcautious crawl--if there's such a thing as overcautious when humans are in front of your vehicle--when they see me, there are exceptions, people who are angry you exist and have caused them to slow for a microsecond and also those who never bother to look. These are probably the same people who go barreling down suburban streets at high speed when kids are on their bikes and toddlers in their yard and hurtle past construction workers heedless of their vehicle's proximity to people. When I am walking, though, most drivers get impatient if they've paused for me and get too close before I can finish crossing at a crosswalk, not realizing I'm not walking slowly to bother them. There are also many people who, after their initial and self-congratulatory pause to let me cross in my scooter, get aggravated when I have to jog at a diagonal to the nearest curb cut, rather than magically jump the curb, I suppose.

Anyway, the Backer was in a disability parking spot when I came out of the store. She sat in her car for several minutes talking with her (presumably) daughter. I was behind my vehicle most of that time trying to disentangle one of the attachments/hooks that secures it, which had become caught and damaged in the lift mechanism and prevented me from lowering the lift. While neither my lift or scooter was directly behind the Backer and was directly behind my own vehicle, the Backer when she abruptly decided to leave barely cleared my bumper and did not back past the lift. I don't think she ever saw me. She probably couldn't see the lift and scooter easily since I had just freed the attachment and scooter/lift were at that point below her bumper and eye level, but she could have seen me or my daughter or my open back door (the door takes up a lot of room) if she had looked.

You can see why I hate it when access aisles aren't available to the right of my vehicle (I approach the lift from the right because of my settings), thus leaving me immediately behind someone's vehicle as I load it. My daughter pointed out the side-exit platforms are probably safer. I pointed out that much of the time you can't get an access aisle in the right place or at all, and so would then have to disembark in traffic and park.

For goodness' sake, people, including those with disabilities, needs to slow down and think what they're doing. There could have just as easily been a small child behind her car, and she should have been able to determine from the fact that my son got in the car several minutes before on her side that she needed to pay attention. And you might expect if you park in disability parking that someone next to you might actually be disabled.

People should be more cautious and stop driving their vehicles as if they are on a video game, weaving in and out of traffic at high speed, cutting in at close range, tailgating. Maybe hosting or showing documentaries with SCI's at drivers' training would help curb dangerous habits in the same way that we educate people about drinking and driving and seatbelt use. People can't claim not to have thought about these issues and how a moment's mistake can cost your life or quality of life, or someone else's.

I did find the panic honker button on the car alarm later (hadn't tried it) and decided I need to keep that more readily available (I try to secure my keys so I don't drop them or misplace them while I load the scooter).

To people who think disability is easy or that we get free rides and perks, shove it.

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