I “commuted” 180 miles round trip 2 days a week for 5 years, and found that my faith in humanity was drastically undermined by the behavior I witnessed on the road. People behave in such a way as they never would if waiting their turn in line or dealing with someone face to face. Couple that with a generalized lack of attention, and the road is a dangerous place to be indeed.
For example, today, on my 9-mile drive from work to home:
1. Driver #1 sits in the lane for the duration of the green left-turn arrow, then zips out at the last second and dives into the far right lane, turning right on a red light without stopping first (apparently, since he/she had stopped at a green light, she/he was then granted one go-at-a-red-light pass).
2. Driver #2 proceeds down busy 3-lane road at ~ 7 mph under the speed limit, then turns on her left turn signal, pulls into the right (parking) lane, and turns right.
3. Driver #3 merges onto the highway at a blistering 37 miles per hour.
4. Driver #4 changes lanes, from the right to a left, in the middle of an intersection, proceeds in the left lane ~13 mph under the speed limit for approximately 1/2 of a mile, and then goes back into the right lane to turn right (this is not the same as driver #2, alas).
What is wrong with these people?
Nobody knows how to merge, people either don’t use their turn signals or use them too late to be of any use to anyone, most people seem to be driving cars without cruise control and are completely unable to maintain a consistent speed on the highway, and way too many people cross center lines at random or hug one line or another, seeming to indicate an intention to change into a different lane, but failing to actually do so.
Many of these drivers are talking on their cell phones, and apparently have forgotten that a) they are driving a car, and/or b) they are not the only person on the road. Besides DWD (Driving While Dumb) we have DWD2 (Driving While Distracted), DWoCP (Driving while on a Cell Phone), DWT (Driving While Texting), DWO (Driving While Old) and DWY&C (Driving While Young and Clueless).
A few weeks ago a man driving a large pickup, and pulling a VERY long trailer, simply merged onto the highway and into my lane without looking at me once. If I had not been able to get into the left lane instantly he would have “taken me out.” He never noticed — he was talking on a cell phone, which he was holding up to his left ear, the result of which a) he couldn’t see me and b) he didn’t notice and/or c) he didn’t care.
Various surveys show 4 out of 10 accidents being caused by people driving while on a cell phone or texting and compares the reactions of 20-year-olds while on a cell phone to those of 70-year-olds in general. Other surveys show that driving while on a cell phone is more dangerous than driving drunk and include using a hands-free phone in these statistics, some studies showing that these are even MORE dangerous.
In general people seem to be getting away with worse and worse driving abilities and habits, although maybe this is just my opnion.
In any case, it would be good for everyone if people drove smarter and stopped treating their car like a living room or a phone booth. Remember: Your primary job is to a) drive your car safely and b) be considerate of everyone else on the road. If you can’t do those two things, please stay home, or at the very least, stay out of the driver’s seat.
Think of it as your Christmas gift to the world.