Sunday, March 16, 2014

Don't Drive Like a D**k

I have been driving for just shy of twenty-eight years, and I am seeing a horrible trend among California drivers—the utter lack of understanding in simple physics, and a complete disregard of appropriate social behavior. I am sure that anyone reading this post will likely be nodding his or her head and agreeing with what I have to say, but how many readers will actually take these words to heart, or pass them on to others? I suspect these words will be easily forgotten as soon as said readers get behind the wheel. I will start by saying that the vast majority of the problems I see today are most likely the result of a couple factors—lack of driver’s education in schools, and an ever increasing population. There is one more factor, but I hesitate to put it at the top of the list of causes simply because I want to believe that the problem is not widespread—new residents to the state.

First and foremost, I believe that ever since driver’s education was reduced to elective course status and the number of online schools and training have risen, fewer and fewer students are getting a proper education in driving. More and more this responsibility is falling on the heads of parents who are working sixty hours a week, stressed out, and impatient. In fact, this responsibility is often being shifted to older siblings who have already earned their license, and the parents feel should be able to teach their younger siblings to drive. This situation results in a complete decline in the amount of education that new drivers receive. Now combine that with finite amounts of information found in online driver’s ed courses and test prep materials, and we have a situation where new drivers are barely learning anything beyond the essentials. Now advance forward four years and these uneducated drivers are commuting to work and college. Combine that with late-night gaming sessions, parties, or just working late, and we have an accident waiting to happen. Each morning I see someone speeding through traffic because they did not give themselves enough time to drive to their destination in the morning. And that takes us to the lack of understanding physics. There are very simple laws of physics that dictate total travel time from point A to point B. You can drive like a bat out of hell for fifteen miles on the freeway, but as soon as you exit you will have to stop at every light along with everyone else, unless of course you want to break those laws as well. So, that time “saved” breaking the speed limit—lost. Sure, one might have saved oneself a minute’s time, but what else did one lose? What about the wear and tear on the car? The stress caused to both mind and body worrying about getting caught or getting in an accident?  Was that one minute of time really worth it? Is one so self-absorbed that he or she is willing to tell the rest of society to go to hell just because he or she is unable to wake up at an appropriate time to commute to one’s destination at the posted speed limit?

That brings up the second issue I raised—disregarding acceptable social behavior. I realize that there are psychological factors at work when one is encased in a steel shell and only in the presence of another for a few seconds, but that does not excuse the behavior that more and more drivers are exhibiting. I can completely accept erratic driving and speeding if one has a life-threatening issue, but if one’s behavior is due to a lack of preparation, that individual has no right to act the way he or she does. If one were to walk through a crowd the same way one drives, how long would it take before someone “corrected” that behavior either verbally or physically? And again, what is being gained by driving this way?

If you find yourself falling into the rushing trap, try this little test one day to see just how much time you are really saving yourself: record the time you pull away from the curb and your arrival time at your destination. Drive like you usually do to beat the clock. The next day, go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up early enough to get out the door with plenty of time to get to your destination. I recommend Google Maps or Google Now for determining how long the trip will take. Drive to your destination going the speed limit and not a mile faster, feel free to stay in the slow lane. Make sure to record departure and arrival time. How much time was saved between the two? Depending on distance traveled it will likely be a few minutes at most. More importantly how do you feel both mentally and physically? I am betting you will be much more relaxed and happier in the second instance.

And before you accuse me of pointing fingers, I will say that I have been guilty of driving this way as well. We all have. It happens. Hopefully, it never resulted in an accident. Also, I have done the test I mentioned and mine was on an enormous scale. I used to commute almost 200 miles to school each week, and I tested the difference between driving like a madman and driving the speed limit. Do you want to hazard a guess as to the time differential? I saved a whopping ten minutes. Yes, ten whole minutes. And the difference physically and mentally was astounding. So tomorrow when you leave the house, do me a favor and take it easy and don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.