- Burnaby, British Columbia - I have been a driver for nearly 9 years now. I have been in one single-car accident; it involved me crashing into a bridge railing, going a mere 30km/h. Nothing too tragic. I have never had a speeding ticket, though I have been pulled over three times for “routine license and registration” checks with no problems. Generally, I drive 10km/h over the speed limit on the highway, but I do confess to having a bit of a lead foot when starting from a stop. Beyond this, I will tell you that I do not particularly enjoy driving and the whole process tends to be a bit of a bore, especially when it is the same route continuously. There, now you know my driving record as it stands now, I feel as though I can discuss the following without incorrect assumptions being made about what type of driver I am.
"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead." - Mac McCleary
Many people have terrible driving habits and I freely admit that I have several, though I tend to think of them as personal blindspots, as I am unsure exactly what they are. See, the thing with driving is that in the eyes of each driver, what they are doing is either construed to be perfectly safe OR the way that people should drive. This shouldn't come as a great surprise, since it seems that many people believe this about the way that they are living their lives, otherwise they probably wouldn't live their lives in such a manner. Granted, one could live their life in an unsafe manner merely for the thrill, but for the purposes of this discussion, we will not focus on these individuals.
"It takes 8,460 bolts to assemble an automobile, and one nut to scatter it all over the road." - Author Unknown
Many years ago, I remember watching a television news report about a woman who went to the media about unsafe driving today and how she had had enough. The woman bemoaned how nearly every day, she had dozens and dozens of drivers passing her too quickly in the right lane. Of course, passing on the right lane is not advisable, as it is the cruising lane, while the left lane is to be the passing lane. However, the woman only looked like a fool, when one considered what was she doing in the left lane so often, if she is clearly not passing people, but instead being passed? She was running interference for those drivers who had chosen a quicker driving speed. The safest solution would be for the woman to simply pull over to the right lane and only move into the left lane when attempting to pass.
"The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it." - Dudley Moore
Many people drive far too fast, particularly young people in my experience, who are just getting their start with figuring out the limits of automotive transportation. It brings with it freedom, not only in terms of being able to go new places, but in testing the limits of their driving ability. The danger for young drivers is when they de-personalize the driving experience in terms of Me Vs. Them. See, there are many things done in driving that few would ever dare do outside of the confines of their own personal shield called a car.
"You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive." - Author Unknown
I've seen far more drivers flip the bird to other drivers than I have seen non-drivers do so while on foot. Furthermore, I see more drivers shaking their fist outside their car, or calling out another driver as a "dirty bird" (and that's using the most polite language that I've heard), than those calling people out on foot, while they are out in public (unless they are intoxicated). There is a certain sense of security that is encapsulated within the walls of one's automobile. Something that protects the driver from the rest of the world; the driver can simply lock the doors and prevent the world from getting at him or her. He is safe (unless someone comes with a crowbar, of course!).
"You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said 'Parking Fine.'" - Tommy Cooper
All in all, the common driver quite often places his or her rights above and beyond those of their driving counterparts. We see this in how drivers try, at great lengths, to protect the space between them and the car in front of them. They don't want someone jamming in. When there is a long line of cars in the left lane all trying to pass the same slow car, some jack n' eggs decides that he is going to jam in further ahead to get past the slowpoke sooner, yet the left lane drivers close the gap and try to prevent the speed demon from stealing their place. Or who can forget those frustrating moments of doing the polite thing by activating the turn signal to move over, only to have such a gesture go largely ignored and leaving us feeling frustrated and less likely to be kind to the other drivers in the future. Instead, we might just try to jam in when given the opportunity.
"There are two things no man will admit he cannot do well: drive and make love." - Stirling Moss
What inspired this discussion of today's driving habits? I was driving in the left lane one day, passing a good number of cars with no one behind me. I approached two cars on the right and it appeared that the rear car was cruising quicker than the one in front of him, but still much slower than me. Despite my quick approach, the rear car pulled into the left lane, causing me to hit the brakes quickly and reduce my speed to prevent a collision and allow him to pass the car in front of him. He made no effort to accelerate to pass the car, instead carried on at his original speed and then once he was several car lengths ahead of the car that was previously in front of him, he slowly moved over, leaving me feeling frustrated and as if my rights to that lane had been violated.
"The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers." - Dave Barry
This experience has occurred numerous times, but what really got me thinking was what I learned about the driving habits of the everyday man. When we drive, we are so focused on ourselves and where we are trying to get. Rarely does the thought enter my mind about where the other driver may be going; instead he is merely an obstacle in my pathway. For all I know, he may be headed to a first date with a new girl, or he could simply be headed to work; who knows if he is early or late. We all tend to view our destination, whether we realize it or not, as being more important as our competitors.
"The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual, his shrine to the self, his mobile Walden Pond." - Edward McDonagh
The driver who cut me off to pass the car in front of him, he made a subconscious decision that it was more important that he was able to continue his speed unimpeded than my speed being impeded. Driving courtesy would say that if there was a car approaching at a speed quicker than you, you should allow the other driver to pass, in the interests of safety, and then move on when he or she has moved on. I say this, realizing that I am no saint in this regard, because I know all too well that I've had the thought enter my mind, "wow, he is driving fast. Meh, it's not a problem if I slow him down, he is driving too fast anyway." It were as if I used my own personal needs to justify my disregard of driving courtesy. No, I wasn't thinking about myself, I was thinking of the greater good! If I didn't slow him down, he might have caused an accident, so really, I probably saved a life. Okay, that's getting carried away, but at the core, as drivers, we do this too often.
"Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac." - Author Unknown
I believe driving says a great deal about humanity, I am just not sure that I have figured out everything that it is saying yet.