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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Driving Dangers

We're on vacation (again) this week. Last night we arrived at my brother-in-law's home, and several family members gathered for dinner. Naturally I was asked to return thanks (either it is a courtesy, or an admission that no one else knows how to pray). When I finished, someone else kindly added a postscript "and thanks for a safe arrival". That got me thinking about our day's experience on California Interstate highways. Indeed it is a beneficent providence that brought us this far.

There are several species of hazardous drivers out there, and someone ought to be able to categorize several of them.

Kamikaze Commuter: this is the guy who is almost late for work (morning), or hurrying to see his beloved family (evening). Don't look for courtesy from this guy. He's got blood in his eye, and every advantage in traffic was made for him and you had better cater to him or expect vengeance by way of an obscene gesture or worse.

Galloping Cowboy: this guy drives a truck that is about a size and a half larger than I remember trucks to be. He may have a gun rack behind the cab and bumper stickers that inform me that there are only two kinds of music: country and western. The truck tires are made for troop transport half tracks and they make an intimidating hum on the road. Whichever lane has the longest space forward to the next line of traffic is his lane for passing you and everyone else who is a potential threat to his masculinity.

Timid Titmouse: often this guy is the greatest threat to the flow of traffic. He is the cause of sudden convulsions of traffic as car after car switches lanes from behind him to regain the speed of the flow of traffic. When he enters the superhighway of 70 MPH traffic, he does so at a cautious pace of 35 to 40 MPH, wondering why so many rude drivers are frowning at him as they speed around him.

Weaving Willy: this guy works himself to death in order to get there 20 minutes before you. He sees a hole in the next lane just large enough for his vehicle and jumps lanes, looking for the next opportunity to do it again. Those who are really good at this can make you dizzy if you watch them. On our way here I had the leisure to watch one such driver whose car was equipped with a bubble luggage carrier mounted on top. I could see this bubble weaving its crazy way from left to right for several miles. If we were headed to the same destination, he would no doubt have arrived a good 20 minutes ahead of me, but why?

Taillight Tommy: this is the guy who seems to want you to admire his taillights. As soon as you leave anything close to a safe distance between your car and the one ahead of you, Tommy thinks you are wasting space on the highway. So he fills it by pulling in front of you and putting on his brakes just for good measure.

Fortunately, most experienced freeway drivers realize the simple logic of it all. We are all flowing at 65-70 MPH. Rudeness and lane changing will not improve your ETA more than a few minutes, so stay put and be glad you are not stopping for signals on surface streets. Unless your wife is in serious labor and you are headed for the hospital, take it easy, Jack!

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