There is a reason why the City of Manteca has spare fire hydrants at the municipal corporation yard.
During a typical year motorists manage to shear six to 10 fire hydrants off at their base.
Almost all are taken off by either truck drivers misjudging turns or motorists who simply run into them. Rare is the case when a traffic collision sends a vehicle flying into a fire hydrant.
That doesn’t surprise experienced patrol officers. It’s because drivers are paying too much attention.
“You can get too focused,” Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion said last year in response to a query about vehicle versus fire hydrant crashes.
A driver sees a fire hydrant when they are turning. They keep an eye on it to make sure they don’t hit it but because that’s the only thing they are focusing on they are drawn to it. The way to avoid that from happening is to make sure you know where the obstacle is for you look to where you are going.
The fire hydrants cost $1,000 a pop to replace. Typically tens of thousands of gallons of water are lost while firefighters work to locate the shut off value and turn the flow of water off.
The city will seek to recover losses from the driver or their insurance company.
Being too focused on things you are trying to avoid instead of looking where you are going is also one of the major reasons why people drive into buildings. Many cases involved customers parking cars in front of stores inadvertently hitting the gas and not the brake. The same thing happens when homes are hit. Drivers will become so focused at stopping at a stop sign they don’t realize they accidently hit the brakes. And when the car is lurching forward over the sidewalk or a parking pillar or is accelerating at a stop sign and not stopping their initial reaction is the brake isn’t working so they hit it harder.
Police officers note you want to be aware of everything around you but you’ve also got to keep your eye on where you are going. It’s like the old advice about the best way to walk a straight line is to keep your focus straight ahead and occasionally looking down to where you are stepping.