Driving, Revisited

I have written about driving before but in the interim I have spent significantly more time on the road and have been contemplating the subject quite a bit. My previous post was a bit rambling and discussed car maintenance, road ownership, and other topics peripherally associated with driving. Today I would like to concentrate on driving itself and the unwritten rules of the road. I would also like to introduce the two biggest problems on the roads today: the idiots and the assholes.

Under our system in the United States, there are federal roads, state roads, county roads, and some private roads. Driving rules and regulations are typically set at the state level, although there tends to be a great deal of agreement between the states about the basic driving laws. This has historically been the result of the federal Department of Transportation setting out some set of rules, and the federal government coercing the states into following those rules under threat of losing funding. As much as I detest federalism and would like to have most of government done at a more local level, I do greatly appreciate the fact that the driving laws across the states are generally the same, and everyone does not have to stop at each state border to have my car inspected to determine whether it is up to the standards of that state.

I also appreciate reciprocity between states regarding driving licenses. While people have to apply and pay separate fees for each state in which they would like to practice medicine, at least people do not need to apply and pass tests (and pay) in each state in which they would like to drive. I certainly can imagine how this situation could be much worse and wish that state governments could use reciprocity in more areas.

Anyway, as it stands the various governments maintain the roads (or not…there is a great deal of variability in the quality of the roads) and they are free for us to use. We have to share the roads with other drivers who have different abilities, temperaments, and driving styles. The bar to pass in order to be given the privilege of using the public roads is not very high – pretty much everyone who wants to drive and is not incapacitated in a major way is able to get a license.

We can argue all day about the laws, and whether or not the driving laws, particularly speed limits, are needed, but what I would really like to discuss are the unwritten rules of the road. When sharing the roads we should all understand these unwritten rules. Many of these rules have been so abused that they have been made into laws in various states, but in my mind they are all common sense and people should not need law enforcement to regulate them.

I can’t drive 55.

…Before getting to the unwritten rules, I would like to jump in here and say that with modern cars and modern roads, the 55 speed limit is crazy. Even the 75 speed limit is crazy on some roads. With modern safety features and attentive drivers, there is no reason to think that driving 80, 90, or even 100 or more is unreasonable. But anyway, back to the issue…

First of all, just be nice. Common courtesy. Do not cut people off. Do not tailgate. Keep a reasonable amount of distance between cars on the roads in order to be able to stop and not have accidents. If someone is trying to move over, let them through. If you accidentally cut someone off, give them a wave to indicate ‘I’m sorry’. Try to be patient.

Some people like to drive faster than others. Slower traffic should stay to the right. You should pass on the left. If you find yourself in traffic being passed on the right, you are in the wrong lane – move over.

When you drive, you are accelerating a large mass of metal and plastic to high speeds and the resulting momentum can cause physical injury. Therefore, when you drive it would behoove you to pay attention to what you are doing. Do not text. Do not put on makeup. I understand that you might need to look something up on the web, but you can pull off the road to do that. Your life is not that important that a few extra seconds will matter that much.

That is about it. I may come up with more. Most people get this. Most people are polite drivers and share the road well. Unfortunately, we have two groups of people who populate the roads and make life very difficult: the idiots and the assholes.

Idiots

The idiot driver is clueless. They are operating in a completely different sphere of consciousness. Their bad driving is not malicious, but it is dangerous nonetheless. These people just have no idea that they are causing problems. They are oblivious to other people on the roads.

Idiot drivers put on makeup. Idiot drivers text while driving. Idiot drivers not only eat, but set out a whole family style buffet in their car. Idiot drivers sing and dance. Now I am not opposed to anyone listening to music while driving – I find it quite relaxing and enjoyable. I am also not opposed to people singing along with their favorite songs while driving. But when the rhythm of the music becomes a sine-wave swerving across multiple lanes, we have a problem.

Idiot drivers exist in their own little world and in that way they are very selfish. They are not at all mindful of other people on the road. The idiot driver cruises along at 55 in the left hand lane of the highway with a line of cars behind them, and that self-absorbed, distracted, neglectful, negligent driver has no idea that they are causing problems on the road.

Assholes

As opposed to the idiot driver, the asshole driver is completely aware of what is going on around them. The asshole driver has decided that they are the most important person on the road and that it is their job to enforce the rules. The asshole drives at 55 in the left hand lane on purpose. The asshole feels that because it is the law, and because they feel compelled to obey the law, then everyone else must obey the law as well.

The asshole will cut you off. The asshole will box you in. The asshole will brake unexpectedly. The asshole generates road rage.

Now I will admit that if you are a jerk to me on the road, say I am cruising at 80 or 90 in the left lane (not that I would ever do that as it is illegal ) on a busy highway trying to pass a line of trucks and you come up and start tailgating me and flashing lights, I can become the asshole, but for the most part I try to leave people alone.

To sum things up, don’t be an idiot and don’t be an asshole. I’ll see you on the road…

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