I know that I am guilty of driving past a stranded motorist on the side of the road. In the age of ubiquitous cell phones, I can almost safely assume that a person sitting out of traffic has called a friend or AAA or a towing service, or in the Atlanta area on the highways that a HERO vehicle will be along shortly. I consider this to be acceptable. Especially in the middle of the day, off the side of the road, this person is very likely to be okay.
However, when a car is stalled and is blocking traffic, I usually pull up and ask if they need help. Most of the time they say no, whether because they don’t need help or because the bald goatee’d strange guy is asking I don’t know, but at least I’ve asked. Occasionally, people even say yes, and I help them. Not often, because the truth is that it is fairly rare for a car to actually die completely in traffic and not be able to get off the road. I’ve had cars die a few times, but in almost every case I was able to limp them off the road.
Yesterday, the wife’s car died while waiting at a stop light. She called me, I told her to call the service station we use and have them send a truck, and then I packed up my stuff and left work to go help. In the time it took me to get there, more than 20 minutes, many cars had gone by her honking and yelling. One guy did help her slightly, and pushed her car forward enough that people could get around her easier, but didn’t help her get out of the road. After I got there, I witnessed a large number of people continue to honk and yell and drive around. I tried to move the car myself, but it was slightly uphill and I wasn’t going anywhere. Then a guy in a truck towing a trailer asked if we needed help. I said yes, he actually drove to a nearby gas station, parked, and ran back over to help. The two of us pushed the car through the intersection and into a turn lane out of traffic.
For well over a half hour, the wife sat in traffic as people honked and yelled, complaining and upset at the jam her dead car was causing. Out of all of those people, only two bothered to help. I find this indicative of most people in general. They would rather sit and complain about something being crappy rather than to actually take action to try to make it less crappy. So many people would rather be the victim than the hero if being the hero means they have to actually do something.