I’ve pointed out in past columns the crazy way that a lot of people are driving on Decatur’s streets and roads and it seems to be getting worse. Of all the “near-accidents” I’ve personally witnessed involving irresponsible drivers I think the award for the “most heart stopping” near-accident came at the downtown intersection of East William and North Franklin streets, near the post office!
It was a little before 5:00 p.m. one evening last week and I was driving north on Franklin, in the middle of fairly heavy traffic, when the drivers in the cars in front of me suddenly slammed on their brakes even though the traffic signal was green and had been for several seconds! When the screeching of tires stopped, two young men on skateboards heading east on William Street finished shooting through the intersection after being narrowly missed by the first row of cars. But that wasn’t all!
As the drivers were starting up again (they still had the green light) a young man on a bicycle, also heading east on William St., tried to make it through the intersection just like the skateboarders! The cars and the bicyclist came to a sudden halt and the bicyclist turned his bike sideways and stopped suddenly in order to avoid being hit by a car where the driver was probably about to have a heart attack!
The recklessness I’ve seen demonstrated by a lot drivers (and riders) has been appalling and somewhat frightening because they apparently have no respect for life — especially their own. I certainly am not a traffic expert, or do any kind of accident investigation, but I have no doubt that, if a skateboarder or bicyclist wants to challenge the driver of a car by crossing an intersection in front of cars against a traffic light — the cars are going to win that challenge every time!
• OTHER people have also been noticing the crazy driving which seemingly has hit our community like the COVID-19 pandemic. Jan Martinie of Decatur sent me a letter about it: “Dear Mr. Osborne, “I read your ‘City Beat’ column about ‘Local Crazy Driving Continues To Amaze’. If you really want to see some local crazy driving, come to Jasper and Cantrell around 2:30 p.m. mostly during the work week until around 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. I call it ‘The 4 way stop circus’.
“You can see cars, trucks, motorcycles and even scooters have imaginary ‘drag races’. Sometimes you can see a real drag race. It is mainly certain drivers that do it daily. I can usually tell by the sound of the engine of the vehicle coming through and heading south on Jasper. Really it is a very fast area. I won’t even talk about loud music.”
• ONE OF my staff members usually has a “close-call’ story to tell me about the crazy driving she witnessed on her way to the office that morning and how close she came to being involved in an accident because of the motorists that cut in and out of traffic and nearly hit her car! I’m not sure why drivers are so anxious to pass everything in sight, and weave in and out of traffic, in a race to get somewhere! I’ve found that, usually, the “passers and weavers” who endanger everyone’s life don’t gain that much highway. Many times, I pull up beside them stopped at the next intersection! As I’ve written before, be alert and drive safely. I don’t want any of you to get hurt or killed through the crazy driving of others.
• MICHAEL T. Carrigan, who was mayor pro tem all of the years that I served as mayor of Decatur, and was appointed mayor when I retired from the office, was recently confirmed by the Illinois Senate for a seat on the Illinois Commerce Commission. (Story on page 14 of this edition.) As I wrote in a previous column several months ago, Mike always took his position on the council very seriously and seldom missed a meeting, often driving from Chicago back to Decatur on Mondays so he could be present at that night’s council meeting. I’m sure he will be just as committed to the ICC position as he was on council and other roles he has accepted in his career. Congratulations and best wishes to him.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. for the “City Hall Insider” at 7:00 every Thursday morning. I always enjoy discussing the issues confronting our community with Brian.