What is wrong with drivers on the road lately? I’m reminded of a George Carlin skit where he describes drivers based on your perception that sort of fits the start of this blog post I’m making today. His quote (or question), that I heard so many years ago, goes like this. “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” It makes sense actually if you think about it, as our perception is based on us being at the center, a 360 degree view of the world around us. My experience as of late on the wild roads of Northeast USA has been harrowing and terribly frustrating. It seems that other than the majority of semi-truck drivers and myself, everyone is a maniac.
Let me explain the painting to you in what has brought me to this conclusion. Driving to work today, on a highway where the speed limit is 70, I was in the left lane actually doing 75-ish. A silver Dodge Charger came flying up on my bumper (I saw him coming) and sat there, impatiently, probably contemplating on whether to bump draft and pass me or not. Well, there was traffic, I couldn’t go anywhere and had to endure his impatience in my mirrors. Seeing a large line of trucks in my right lane, more than a few have you, I knew this dude would be sucking my fumes for a while. He was weaving back and forth, peering around me and confirming that yes, in fact, I had cars in front of me. Apparently he had this notion that he could go faster in my spot than I could, and wanted to be here or he would die. A mile or two of this escalated to flashing high beams and beeping his horn, still going 75 or so with trucks on our right. I’m a patient person, and can tolerate a lot of poor behavior on the road, but flashing high beams at me hit a seldom pushed button. I took my foot of the gas and slowed down to the speed limit, which was still 70.
A sizeable gap had formed in front of me as the they continued to go 75 or so. This enraged the dude behind me and if he could have exploded like a volcano, there would have been a crater in the middle of the highway. I had become the driver he hated the most. A driver aware of his horrible behavior and ignoring his escalating anger towards me, not because it wasn’t working, but rather because it *was* working but not with the expected outcome he wanted (me moving over to let him pass). I was coming to the end of the long line of trucks after driving about 5 miles and I slowed down to match the front trucks speed with just a few more MPH to creep past his bumper. The truck driver picked up on what I was doing and could easily see the guy behind me going completely insane trying to get me to move out-of-the-way, which wasn’t his fault. So I accelerated and started to move over slowly with my right blinker on. The Dodge dude practically drove up the middle k-rail to get around me with inches between our cars.
I’m thinking this is over and all would be well again with the world. Unfortunately I was mistaken as the last 10 minutes had taken a toll on this guys sanity. As there was now no one in front of us for almost a mile, rather than take off like I had expected, he immediately darted half into my lane just ahead of my car. He slammed so hard on his brakes that he locked the tires for a split second and then proceeded to mash the gas and take off. With a loaded semi behind me with a driver I’m sure just pooped his pants a little, I mashed the gas and as I was accelerating, I pulled out my phone. Using the shortcut to the camera, I then held it up just behind the steering wheel prepared to take a picture of his license plate once I caught up. He had been really moving and I did a speed that I have done only two other times in my entire life to get close enough to get a picture, which I did. I backed off immediately and, while I’m not going to say what I had reached, it was certainly 3 digits.
Yeah, I know, going that fast to catch up I’m no better than the maniac in the Dodge and became a maniac to everyone around me to do it. Thankfully I had caught up before we hit the traffic pack and I backed off well before I got close, so I was only a maniac to myself, not better, just less of a maniac (just short of plaid). Once I had arrived at work, I proceeded to call the State Trooper Aggressive Driver Hotline to report the offending Dodge’s behavior and give his license plate number. I was asked by the attendant how I got the license plate, and I said that I caught up to him after he passed to snap a picture. She wasn’t pleased as it was clear I had been speeding to catch him and no better than he had been. Regardless, she appreciated that I reported him and confirmed that it wasn’t the first time the license plate had been called in. He was a maniac by all definitions.
My observation of drivers in general the last several months is similar to all the negativity in the news. While I’m far from an expert here, I see a correlation between uncertainty, doubt, anger, and fear with our countries direction and the state of people driving on the roads. We all take for granted that a vehicle is in essence a heavy object with power much greater than the average person. It doesn’t take much for the thought of ramming the bumper of the person who cut you off or turning into the side of someone who just flipped you off to enter into your head. I’ve tried very hard to keep myself calm and collected while driving as the last thing I need is to push things too far one day and discover that the other guy had a gun under his seat and is ready to use it. Still can’t shake the damn flashing high beams!!
I’m exposed only to the northeast U.S. and have no clue how drivers are acting in other parts of the country. For all the bad drivers we have in the U.S., I’d gladly take them over having to drive in China. I’ve read articles on the chaos they have on their roads because of drivers with less than 15 years of experience to draw upon. Americans have been driving since the early 1900’s and were afforded the mistakes in a world where the fastest car could only go 30 MPH on a good day. Modern cars can easily reach 130 or more (most US vehicles are limited at 105 or less).