Courtesy Misfires

A bad idea that is inherently dangerous

The courtesy left — when a driver suddenly stops to let a driver in an oncoming lane cross over to make a turn — is either a last vestige of public decency on the roads or a risk to others. We believe it is the latter. In effect, the practice adds up to one driver’s making a decision for another, a bad idea that is inherently dangerous.

We were again put in mind of this last week when we read in these pages about a bicyclist who was hurt on Sept. 13 when he collided with a car on Pantigo Road. According to police, an East Meadow resident who was headed east paused to allow a visitor from Martha’s Vineyard who was headed west to turn toward the CVS Pharmacy parking lot on Gay Lane. Thomas Kim of Brooklyn, who was pedaling east on a bicycle, slammed into the side of the sedan making the left, which blocked his path. He was flown by Suffolk police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment.

This accident was hardly the first caused by good intentions gone awry. There have been recent similar incidents that we know of in Montauk, Amagansett, and Bridgehampton — some that also required hospital visits for injuries. A friend remains in a brace now months after an accident caused when the driver in front of his truck jammed on the brakes to avoid a group of ducks.

The courtesy left is contagious and seems to have become more prevalent. Also risky is something seen frequently on East Hampton’s Main Street, when drivers with the right of way allow jaywalkers to cross, only to have them stroll into the path of another vehicle in the next lane.

Equal to being aware of hazards, drivers should strive to make the movements of their vehicles easily understood, steady, and predictable. As much as we should celebrate the impulse to be chivalrous,  caution and the commonly understood rules of the road should always take precedence.