I firmly believe civilization as we know it began a slow decline toward destruction the day right-turn-on-red was legalized.
Here’s the law (in Illinois):
… vehicular traffic facing any steady red signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn right … after stopping at [a clearly marked stop line]. After stopping, the driver shall yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction or roadways. Such driver shall yield the right of way to pedestrians within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.
In other words, every driver on the road gets to define “so closely.”
Anyone and everyone can determine what does and does not constitute an “immediate hazard.”
In other words, it was the beginning of my time and space are more important than you and yours. And the end of civility and decorum on our streets and roads.
It’s every driver for himself:
If there is the slightest chance you can sneak in between the two cars whizzing by in the “fast” lane, go with your bad self.
If I don’t think it’s too close, I’m perfectly within my rights to turn into cross traffic ahead of that guy – as long as I stop first and quickly conclude that there is no immediate hazard. And as long as he slows down a little.
Why shouldn’t I?
- My time is quite valuable.
- I don’t know that guy.
- We’ll probably never meet.
- Whaaaaaat? He barely had to slow down.
- I have as much right to the road as she does.
- I’m not waiting.
Nobody wants to wait.
But it really isn’t about time, is it? Or being in a hurry or running late. It isn’t about patience or traffic safety. It’s not about anything we think it is when that lunatic cuts us off by turning right on red when I’m practically in the middle of the intersection. Good golly, Miss Molly. What is wrong with people?
No, it’s not about time or patience. It’s about love.
It sounds pretty corny to expect that lunatic to love me… the one who hardly does even a New York “stop” before turning right in front of me.
I don’t know that guy. We’ll probably never meet.
And when I ninja myself between those two cars on my left to pass the slow-moving semi, I don’t know them. We’ll probably never meet.
But the thing is that I do know them. They are just like me. They have families and want to get home. They got stuck in the parking lot or in bumper-to-bumper traffic and are already late to the soccer game.
They are distracted by the alarming news they heard on the radio or the unexpected news they got over the phone. That overdue project is not close to being finished and that %#@*$!? co-worker is taking two-hour lunches.
One student’s mom just went to jail and those same two trouble-makers are getting on her last nerve. And high-stakes testing is just around the corner.
They are all living wall-to-wall lives just like me.
And Jesus loves them just like He loves me.
It will be several years before my grandkids start to drive. But I fear they do not see the best of us when we get behind the wheel. I fear they are learning the worst possible definitions of “so closely” and “immediate hazard.” I fear that, as we pride ourselves in busy-ness and efficiency, we model to the next generations that #MeFirst holds greater value than #DoUntoOthers.
Jesus put it this way:
Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” (Matthew 7:12/The Message)
My lovelies, I’m worried we live like we’re turning right on red. We sneak in and out of situations without so much of a glance at the other drivers. We jump out ahead of them because we’ve got things to do. And because we can.
Let’s redefine so closely to mean “give others the right-of-way even when they are far enough away to cause no immediate hazard at all.”
I’m still convinced that Jesus made the foundations of Truth simple and clear. He said…
…”I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” (John 14:6)
…”Love Me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” (Luke 10:27)
…”Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:33)
And I’m convinced that my sneaking and jumping out and overall self-focus completely contradicts that last one. Loving my neighbor is the same whether I’m serving coffee to my guests, volunteering at church, or contributing to the nonprofit.
Or turning right on red. It should look no different. No different at all.