Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Italians have nothing on Winnipeg drivers

It's like being in a demolition derby out there

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This has to stop, Winnipeg!

I am referring to the dramatic increase in the number of drivers who become (extremely bad word) homicidal morons when they get behind the wheel of a car.

I am not referring to you, of course. It is obvious you are a careful, considerate motorist, unlike the legions of legally insane drivers who believe it is their (another extremely bad word) constitutional right to operate a motor vehicle while talking on their cellphones, texting, eating, drinking coffee, shaving, applying lipstick, changing CDs and rooting around on the floor for the breakfast burrito they dropped while changing lanes without signalling.

I have a helpful safety tip for these drivers: "STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW, BECAUSE YOU'RE GOING TO KILL SOMEONE, POSSIBLY ME!!"

I apologize for the excessive use of capital letters and exclamation points, but I think they were necessary to give my driving diatribe the emotional impact it needed to make this city a safer place for everyone. You're welcome.

I'm not saying there are a lot of bad drivers in this city... No, wait, that's exactly what I'm saying. In fact, I have never been in a city that is home to more atrocious drivers than Winnipeg, including Rome, which I visited many years ago.

In Rome, if a pedestrian wants to cross a street without being turned into a roadside pizza, they have to hold hands with a passing nun, mutter a silent prayer, then slowly wade out into traffic where, with luck, oncoming motorists will weave around them, honking their horns and shaking their fists to convey the concept they will pick them off next time unless they are physically attached to, at minimum, the Pope.

You probably think I am kidding, but anyone who has tried to cross a street in Rome knows I am telling the truth. But that is not the point. The point is our drivers are much more dangerous.

The thing that scares me the most is the way some impatient drivers lurk behind snowbanks or SUVs the size of aircraft carriers and attempt to enter main roadways via the technique of sl-o-o-o-wly inching their vehicles out of back lanes or side streets and then, unless they literally hear the sound of crunching steel and shattering glass, stepping on the accelerator and lurching into traffic, thereby causing normal drivers to slam on the brakes and see their entire lives, including that moment when the bigger kids in high school dunked their heads in the toilet, flash before their eyes.

Here's another safety tip for anyone who thinks it is safe to poke their car's nose into oncoming traffic an inch at a time: "STOP IT!!! ARE YOU (MORE WORDS YOU NEVER SEE IN A FAMILY NEWSPAPER) KIDDING ME?"

It is entirely possible I'm a bit sensitive, because my car was recently destroyed by a driver who inched out of a back lane, then hit the gas, thereby embedding her vehicle in the side of mine, because she had failed high school physics and felt it was scientifically possible for two bodies to occupy the same space at the same time.

After the crash, I drove around for several days in a rented car, trying to spot potential road hazards by swivelling my head around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, assuming, instead of throwing up pea soup, she honked her horn every few seconds to inform nearby motorists they were the spawn of Satan.

It turned out the guy who rented the car before me had left a bunch of keys in the vehicle, so I agreed to meet him at a local McDonald's to return them. While I gobbled an Egg McMuffin, he explained he had needed a rental because his car had been T-boned by a driver who blasted through a red light while yakking on a cellphone.

Coincidentally, as we chatted, his phone went off and, after a brief conversation, he looked at me and grunted: "That was my brother. He just flipped his truck on the highway."

Anyway, while we're talking about unsafe driving, let me say I am sick of you people who refuse to dust the snow off the tops of your cars, so you drive around blindly in vehicles frosted like giant wedding cakes. Also, I'd like to know what in the world is wrong with drivers who insist on overtaking me at 1,000 kilometres per hour, then swerve their cars in front of mine and, for fun, immediately reduce their speed to the rate of airport luggage.

It's at moments like this I wish car-mounted death-ray lasers were legal for good drivers like you and me. I told that to the guy who sold us our new car. He said car lasers wouldn't be a good idea.

"Why not?" I demanded.

"Because you'd probably kill someone," he said, laughing.

"STOP IT!" I warned him. And then I inched my way out of the dealership.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2013 A2

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