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Driving down La Jolla

On Torrey Pines Road one lane of traffic is moving and the other is not. At the head of the not-moving lane one expects to find smoke billowing from under the hood or maybe some small woodland creature blocking traffic.

Nope.

A guy is struggling to dial a cell phone.

He doesn’t notice that the cars in front of him are now several hundred yards in front of him. He doesn’t notice the line of cars behind him at all.

What is worse, he is not at all atypical.

For example, what is it about turn signals? When did they become an invitation for the guy in the next lane to speed up and block? Is one’s lane sacrosanct? Is one somehow violated by the very act of letting another slip in?

But on the other hand, when did the standard lane merge become a slow, un-signaled but immutable drift into an already occupied lane -- a drift that forces the other driver either to accept impending collision or acquiesce, slow down and give way.

And sure, there’s the traditional California slow-roll approach to stop signs – that’s been going on for years – but when did that slow roll turn into a blatant full-speed roll-through?

There is virtually no aspect of life in La Jolla to which the word “maniacal” can be appended, but driving is getting there.

One reader has brought to our attention his concerns about how few police officers are patrolling the streets of La Jolla, and suggests that this lack of police presence is enticing drivers to drive poorly.

He may have a point.

From our office windows on Pearl Street, we witness near misses daily: car vs. car, car vs. pedestrian. From Mitch’s Surf Shop, we see drivers backing out blindly into oncoming traffic. Along Girard Avenue we see dangerous U-turns in the middle of the street as drivers attempt to catch that last open parking space. In Bird Rock we see drivers speeding along La Jolla Hermosa as they avoid the roundabout construction zone.

And the horns: why is La Jolla inundated with the incessant blaring of car horns?

This isn’t Chicago or New York or San Francisco – places where the horn is a tool for expressing oneself, for telling one’s neighbor that his or her failure to move immediately upon the change of the light summarizes all that is wrong with city life, indeed, all that is wrong with the universe.

Such Sartre-esque cries of anguish seem entirely out of place in La Jolla.

To put it another way, it’s annoying. The blare of horns damages the peace of life in a very nice place.

So, with the holiday season upon us, we invite our readers to re-evaluate the need for speed, to re-assess the abandonment of polite driving, to re-consider the use of the phone and the horn and the turn signal.

We are all distracted by the many preparations that come with the end-of-the-year celebrations. But what better way to share the much-vaunted goodwill of the season? Drive safely. Drive generously. Hang up the phone, lay off the horn and share the goodwill of the season simply by being a driver of goodwill.