Just Drive She Said

August 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm (Uncategorized)

I suppose I have only myself to blame – after we went to see The Hunger Games and The Avengers, my son decided he wanted to take archery classes. And so, we signed him up for Knight Camp at the Ontario Centre for Classical Sport. Seemed like a pretty well organized camp, but the only problem was, it was in Mississauga.

Mississauga is a longish drive. The first day of camp was a public holiday,  and it took  me 30 minutes. Tuesday 40, Wednesday 55, and Thursday and Friday 45. Which gave me time to reflect on driving, and in particular highway driving.

I’ve had my licence since I was 19. And in almost 30 years of driving I’ve had two very minor knocks, and one that was a bit more serious, but overall my driving record is clean – never lost a single point. I can’t say I really like driving, but it might be more accurate to say I accept driving as a reality of my everyday life. I enjoy the things that come with it: Freedom most of all (none of this excuses the anti-social aspects of driving, which I will look at below), but I recognize that it comes with risk, anti-social behaviour and environmental consequences.

So, in no particular order, are my top ten peeves in driving.

1. The weavers – people who weave through traffic in the notion that they can beat traffic. Simple physics is the rule here. If you are travelling at a certain speed it will always take you the same time to travel the same distance. Any time you save as a result of threading through will be minimal, and the danger you cause , well, considerable.

2. Those who don’t understand what share means – a special hell ought to be reserved for these people who as you signal to pull into a lane in front of them, speed-up so you can’t get in.

3. Middle of the road drivers  -The people who habitually drive in the centre lane on the highway mostly because they don’t drive fast enough to occupy the left lane, but who don’t enjoy the constant merges from the on-ramps. Thing is, they usually drive slower than the right lane, so traffic is continually forced to spool around them. .

4 No signallers – The people who fail to make any sort of turn signals. Generally when people are making left or right turns, there’s usually a signal, but increasingly people changing lanes do not signal (a refinement on this is signaling when you’re already half into the lane, but I digress)

5 Tailgaters – You could be doing 130 KPH and they’re still 1 metre behind your back bumper. That point about physics mentioned above holds for stopping too. Most people drive as if conditions will not change – that’s rarely true. My personal favourite is when people tailgate you when you’re in the right lane. Ah, isn’t that the “slow” lane?

6 The honkers – I rarely use my horn, but there are some drivers who appear never to stop using it. Now, if I’m sitting behind someone at a red light, and it turns green, I wait patiently…for a bit. However, there are some, you know who I mean, who the second the light turns green are honking. Relax, you’ll probably live longer.

7 The sociopath – Probably the broadest category on my list. The person who simply put seems insane – committing all of the sins on the list and adding a few new ones. I give them a wide berth. Always.

8 The hurry-up-to-slow-down- driver – Wasn’t really sure what to call this one, and I suppose it doesn’t really pose a problem of safety, but I notice a lot of people blast past me and speed up to get into a lane in front of me, than slow down to a crawl. If you were in such a hurry then, why not now?

9 The “distracted” driver –  Oh sure, I drink coffee in the car, and I’ve changed, unassisted, CDs, but I don’t use my cell (illegal where I live) and I don’t text (I don’t on dry land either, so no biggie). I guess I’m with Einstein when he said that if a person is driving in a car with a beautiful woman, he can either drive or talk t o her, but he can’t do both properly.

10 The take-other-drivers-for-granted-driver – When someone lets you in, thank them. It’s just karmic.

Having re-read my list, I realize it’s a bit like George Carlin’s comment that everyone on the road driving slower than you is an idiot, while everyone on the road driving faster than you is a maniac.

I’ve read some pseudo-Marxist critiques of driving which explain that driving is an anti-social activity contrasting it unfavorably to other forms of transportation. Although if you’ve ever taken public transit, it’s not exactly a utopian paradise either – there’s plenty of room for anti-social activity there too!

While motorists bring an arrogance and aggressiveness to the table, pedestrians bring a sort of obliviousness – yes, you may have the right of way, but if the driver trying to cut you off is an idiot, you’ll still be dead. The number of pedestrians who cross in traffic while holding animated cell phone conversations or texting is truly frightening. Cyclists often manifest the same arrogance as drivers, but throw in a large helping of self-righteousness. I’ve seen countless cyclists swear at idiot drivers only to blast through intersections without pause for those who actually had the right of way. Unfortunately for cyclists, as with pedestrians, while right may be on their side, in a collision with a car, you lose. Every time. This is not to excuse the driver, only to point out a certain physical reality.

The question would seem to be, are anti-social people drawn to driving (the isolation of the car, the road warrior ethos) or does driving create anti-social conditions (being determines consciousness and you drive to survive the environment)?

A few years ago Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt was the book to mention in conversation. It seemed you couldn’t open a newspaper without a columnist referring to it.  Vanderbilt mentioned that if you’re not a brain surgeon, driving is one of the most complicated things you will do. Unfortunately, many of us drive while awake (that feeling you get when you reach your destination, but realize you have no conscious memory of having driven there – congratulations you’re on auto-pilot. Most of us drive as if things will not change: it’s OK to drive 1 m behind the car in front you at 130 KPH as long as it does too. If the car stops suddenly, you’re in a lot of trouble. Damn that physics!

I’m fairly certain that neither the Bible, the Koran or any of the Holy texts mention driving. The “rules” of the road are man-made and it seems to me a more, um, cooperative system works better.

But until that time, I’ll leave the last words to an unnamed Indian taxi driver quoted in Vanderbilt’s book. He said to drive in India, though it might be any number of places, you need three things: good horn, good brakes…good luck.

Happy motoring.

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