Phantom of the Roads

“Your hand at the level of your eyes!”

This is the warning sung all throughout Phantom of the Opera. Phantom is quiet, sneaky. He spots his pray and quietly comes up behind and if their hand is not at the level of their eyes, the lasso is quickly tightened around their neck, and they never had a chance…

The Phantom of the Roads is the hybrid car. To most, this is a gas saver, it is good for the environment, it is cute, it might even be a status symbol since it is so pricey.

To the blind or visually impaired pedestrian however, the hybrid car is a phantom we do not hear it coming.

When I began my O & M training, Dave would talk about quiet cars in passing, and I even experienced a few as I was walking down a sidewalk in our training neighborhood. I’ve read legislation about quiet cars, heard stories of not only the blind having issue with these, but also the elderly and even small children. One child was killed by a hybrid while riding his bike.

Hybrid drivers do not realize that they need to be even more cautious then they would normally be in a regular car. If only these people had to take a special driving test to purchase one. Add in the normal distractions of the radio, phone conversation and the all mighty cardinal sin – driving while texting – and I fear for any pedestrian, let alone us blind and visually impaired folks.

Today I really got a taste of why these things are so dangerous. We didn’t actually cross a major intersection, but we got nice and close to a good flow of traffic. The only things I crossed were alley ways opening up onto a main road with traffic running north and south to my left. I still needed to square off, stop and listen, decide to go with the surge or an all quiet. These crossings were fine.

It was when we got up to the small intersection with a short light, that I thought about hybrid, or quiet cars. Dave told me to listen when a car was on my left. He asked me to tell him what the car did when the surge went. In all instances, I could hear the engine rev up as they took off going straight.

Dave explained how a right turn would be different. That going with the surge protects me from left turns, because of the blocker cars, but a right turner would be right there on my left. He said I would hear the engine rev a little and then slow to make the turn and then it would be up to me to listen to see if they stop for me, or make their turn.

I shudder to think what would happen in this case with a hybrid. I’m standing there ready to cross, I hear the surge, I don’t hear a car turning right, I go, the hybrid driver is texting and doesn’t see me, ugh. And my dog will be on my left. Maybe the dog keeps an eye out, but she’s gonna be hustling us forward.

I sure hope to encounter some of these phantoms when I’m out with Dave, so I get a feel for maybe hearing the stupid quiet thing block the sound of the other cars. There is legislation to have these cars make some sort of noise, but who knows how long that will take, and what about the ones already on the road? And what about drunks driving a hybrid…oh man. A year ago this was all enough to keep me hidden away in my apartment nice and save. Now though, there’s no keeping me locked away. If I get hit, I get hit. As long as one of those doesn’t kill or hurt my dog.

For me now, instead of “hand at the level of your eyes”, the line is “flag that cane, keep it visible at all times!”

On a lighter note, Dave checked residential street crossings off our list. I’ve mastered them. We started off with that today, crossing a 4 way residential intersection in all directions. He said my recovery skills are superb, and again, I won’t put myself in danger. So we’re that much closer to being prepared for a home visit from GDB.

Also, a good friend moved into my complex today, and she lives on the second level, so that will be a great route to practice!

Another successful day!

Oh PS – Dave scolded a young college girl for riding her bike on the sidewalk hehe! We were standing there talking and suddenly Dave told me not to move and I heard the sound of a bike right there on me and Dave saying “you shouldn’t ride that on the sidewalk”. Apparently she was flustered because I didn’t move, even though I was facing her with my cane in plain sight. I think bicyclists are the little brother of the Phantom 😉


Filed under accomplishment, Adjustment to blindness, Orientation and Mobility, pooch preparation, white cane

4 Responses to Phantom of the Roads

  1. Just what we need, something that makes drivers even more dangerous!

  2. R

    I know. I can only hope that when I encounter these things, the driver has some annoying music playing. Definitely frightening, thats for sure.

  3. If it makes you feel better, GDB has a phantom, mwa ha ha ha ha. And they come at you with it, mwa ha ha. Don’t be fooled, it’s completely safe, you are accompanied by an instructor and the driver of the phantom would never ever hit you, but you feel what your dog does in the presence of a phantom, or any doofus driver who doesn’t wanna use those things connected to the occipital lobes. It’s a test of your dog’s skills and your ability to trust her. And there’s no way the dog will hustle forward if she sees a car poised to make you road paste. That’s one of the advantages of having a dog.

    But I still hate phantoms. What I fear is the day when they dominate the roads and we no longer have a surge to follow. That’s what really scares the poop out of me.

  4. R

    Oh cool! I read on another blog that this guy did at school where he talked about a Phantom, but I didn’t know GDB actually has a lesson with one, thats great!

    As for the future and our beloved surge, hopefully by then, the legislation will have passed that requires the Phantoms to make some sort of noise. We can hope, right?

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