Local Commentary

Editorial: Are You a Traffic Boor?

Long time Falls Church City Councilman David Snyder understated it at the Council meeting Tuesday night when he quipped, “There has been a breakdown in driving behavior” in the entire nation. No kidding, and to those who are frequent travelers to urban centers in this land, it is evident that the D.C. region is among the worst, if not the worst, anywhere.

Snyder’s comment came in the context of a lengthy discussion at the meeting of problem intersections in Falls Church, where pedestrians, especially little ones, have to negotiate speeding and otherwise aggressive drivers who don’t hesitate to make excessive use of their car horns, gestures, twisted faces and other forms of letting the everybody know they’re highly annoyed by anything that might get in the way of their world-important travel.

The discussion at the meeting was precipitated by an entourage of youth and their parents who live in the area of the City’s intersection at Great Falls and Lincoln Avenue. It took the young ones, coming out to the meeting on a school night, to get the Council’s undivided attention, at least for awhile. After Ben Cosbell, Clair and Rose Weatherby and others told harrowing stories of either trying to cross the street or even just stand by the intersection waiting for a school bus, City Manager Wyatt Shields weighed in, saying he, too, had encountered the experience they were talking about. “This is serious,” he said.

While the Council and City Hall mull the costs and expedient approaches to provide better signage, crosswalks, removal of vision-impairing foliage and other steps to improve safety at that and other intersections in town, the question arises about a little attitude adjustment on the part of folks behind the wheels.

When has being rude become OK in our culture? It really is like a breakdown, as Snyder put it. But because it seems to be endemic now, does that make it right for you? For all the anti-Trump political sentiment that exists in this area, one would think a way to demonstrate anti-Trump feelings would be to take the opposite approach to the boorish demeanor and disrespectful behavior that are among his least desirable traits. Opposing Trump should involve opposing his crude, selfish ways, one would think, not internalizing and emulating them.

Surely, this involves some effort. Kindness and consideration require the exercise of energy. They involve a bit of mental discipline to suppress an internalized rage and instead to slow down, smile and wave, when one is cut off by another driver, for example.

For all the longing of so many for a return to, or to not lose, a sense of small town life and values, it seems that one of the most important legacies involve being courteous and deferential to one’s neighbors and those with whom we share our streets. This should not be a place where middle schoolers must show up to shame us to our elected officials.