Subjective Objectivism and Road Rage…

A recent incident got me thinking about how ones emotions and perceptions affect ones Judgment on the road. Now I will readily admit to being a bit of a lead foot, and this often puts me in a unique position in terms of how I view traffic, as I tend to always be one of the faster vehicles of the road.

However even from your Sunday driver perspective, the reactions of some other drivers make no sense to me. Here’s one (out of numerous examples) of what I’m talking about.

So I’m moving along in the passing lane, going by a string of cars moving slower than I, when I encounter an SUV, just cruising in the passing lane. Now, as I stated before, I’m admittedly a leadfoot, but I’m not entirely inconsiderate. This vehicle is not moving particularly fast, but there are cars in the lane to this drivers right, and so I just hang back and wait for the driver of this humongUV to have an opportunity to move over to the cruising lane. About five minutes later, this SUV clears the cars to the right, and comes up on a stretch of road with no other cars for about half a mile ahead.

Now In my mind, I’m thinking “OK, now this driver should move over to the right, and let me pass.” Not necessarily because I think the driver should be able to read my mind, but rather because the shoulder of this particular highway is sprinkled generously with “Stay right except to pass” signs. Now common sense would dictate that a driver, confronted by a quarter mile of empty road between them and the next closest vehicle ahead, and repeated confirmatory signage, would move to the right, right? You would think so wouldn’t you. Except I wait for about a minute, then two, (maybe even three) and…

Nothing. No blinker, no attempt to change lanes, not even a glance to the side. After a mile or so of cruising like this, I’m beginning to think this driver is zoned out or something. Nonetheless, we are coming up on another group of cars, and not wanting to spend the rest of my life stuck behind Miss Daisy’s driver, I decide to pass this vehicle on the right. Now here’s where the fun begins.

As soon as I signal, get into the right lane and start to accelerate to get around this massive canyonero, it SPEEDS UP!! And no, I’m not talking just a little faster. I’m talking pedal to the metal, “Pass me over my dead body…” speed. Now for a second I’m a little perplexed. Then, seeing that we are rapidly approaching a body of vehicles, my lead foot instinct kicks in, and having a much faster vehicle, I simply gun it and go around the rapidly accelerating hulk of steel.

Now perhaps I cut back over into the passing lane a little closer than this driver would have liked, (I don’t think I did, however I’ve learned that perceived safe passing distances to be a subjective thing), or I somehow inadvertently upset this drivers paradigm of the universe, or maybe being passed just didn’t sit well with this driver, but their reaction thereafter was… I’ll describe it as… very intruguing.

Because as luck, (or my lack thereof) would have it, we were stuck in a clump of cars with a similar Sunday driver in the lead, and Mr/Mrs. Canyonero took to tailgating me to within six inches of my rear bumper for the next few miles. Because clearly, I had passed unsafely/cut them off, and this driver felt that I needed to be taught how to drive safely. Eventually I wearied of this game, and threaded my way through every little nook and cranny I could find in traffic, knowing it could not follow, until I was clear of the irate steel monster…

Now here’s the question. What is it with the “lane hog” mentality? I fail to understand this. If you want to drive at 10mph below the speed limit, by all means, do so, but why sit in the passing lane while doing so, and impede all other traffic who actually would like to drive at the limit? If you all go look at your drivers manuals, you will realize that the far left lane is a PASSING LANE, NOT a DRIVING LANE.

Why then, do people guard the left lane as if their very lives depended upon it? Is it so difficult to stay in the right lane until you need to pass? And even if you are passing other vehicles at a good clip, if the next vehicle is a good quarter mile ahead of you, must you sit in the left lane until you get there? Does it take that much effort to change lanes?

And perhaps the most perplexing behavior are those who cruise at some constant (but relatively low) speed in the left lane, but suddenly accelerate to prevent you from passing if you try to pass them on the right! In the name of all things good in the world, what is your malfunction? If you want to cruise at Xmph, then cruise at Xmph, I certainly won’t hold that against you. And while annoying, I can see (sometimes) where it does make sense to stay in the left lane.

But if you cruise in the left lane, with no other cars to your right, and a string of cars behind you, and you fail to understand why you need to move over to the right, you NEED remedial driving lessons. Or a wet trout to the face. Whichever would be more effective. And if, in the stated scenario you decide you need to actively and aggressively prevent another vehicle from passing you on the right, then you need both remedial driving lessons and COUNSELING.

Why? Because honestly, If you do all of the above, you have got to have some rather serious issues.

Now I’ll also mention that, on most roads, moving out of the way of vehicles that are moving faster than you is not only a common sense act of courtesy, in many places, it is the law. Not that I place much stock in the validity of all of the laws of the road nowadays, but people constantly cite the speed limit as the reason why they should not have to move over. I hear things like “I was driving at the speed limit, so anyone who wants to pass me will be speeding, so nobody should need to have to pass…”

LOL What?

Seriously, if you are worried about people obeying the law, then you need to obey the law yourself and move over, you little hypocrite…

And perhaps the most irrational actions come from those who go into full “Road Rage” when people who try to circumvent thier inconsiderate (and illegal) road hogging behavior, in the only way they have available to them. Passing on the right.

Now I understand that for some folks, ones car is considered an extension of their home. And as a result, people tend to treat road incidents like they have been accosted in their own living rooms. Well, let me point out a few things to remember.

First, If you truly, honestly feel like your car is an extension of your home, then you should fully expect that everyone else feels the same. And hanging out in the left lane is the equivalent of making everybody else wait in line for the bathroom. Treat the left lane like the bathroom.

Do your business and get the heck outta there as fast as you can. If you don’t you should not be surprised or angry when people start banging on the door. If you are, then you are fully admitting that you are being a selfish, inconsiderate jackass.

Here’s the reality check: Even if you consider your car an extension of your home, you also just so happen to cruising your mobile La-Z-Boy on public roads that you have to share with everyone else. Stop acting like the road is there for your use alone. I have a tendency to speed, I will admit that, but I also stay out of everyones way, avoid tailgating as much as possible, and generally try to be mindful of the needs of other drivers. And If I see someone moving faster than I, I get the heck out of their way, regardless of how fast they are going. In fact it is in your best interest to do so. Any other mentality is simply foolish.

Honestly. If you are one of those people who consciously just cruise in the left lane all the time regardless of what’s going on, you are an inconsiderate jerk. And if you are of this ilk, and also actively and aggressively attempt to deter any attempts to pass you, then you are a jerk who needs some serious counseling…

Places NOT to watch your Pr0n…

From the record vault of bad ideas. A Texas man chose a rather unusual place to catch a quick porn flick:

Police issued a citation for a man accused of watching pornography on his car DVD player. Cameron J. Walker, 24, of Irving, was issued misdemeanor citations for obscene display or distribution, not having a driver’s license and having an open container of alcohol, Fort Worth police said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Well, ya know, his wife probably kicked him out. That’s why he didn’t have his wallet. Or something. All right, I’m grabbin’ at straws. I got nuthin’. But what other reason would you possibly have to decide to kick back in your car with a cold brewski and watch a porn DVD in public?

Police cite man for watching porn in car – [Yahoo/AP]

A minor “Hit and Run” with tragic consequences…

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which some people will go to avoid bearing the responsibility of their actions, as displayed by the ff article submitted by a friend:

A woman, fleeing the scene of a wreck that she was involved in, crashed her car into a tree Thursday night, killing her child, police said.

The woman, who was not identified, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. But the boy, believed to be between 5 and 7 years old, died at the scene, said Atlanta police Officer James Polite.

Police said that minutes before the collision, the woman – who has not yet been named – was involved in a minor wreck on Jonesboro Road and Cleveland Avenue in Southeast Atlanta. – [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

You know, even though we don’t know the details of the original accident that caused this woman to decide to flee, and eventually careen out of control, it is easy to see the trail of bad decisions that got her there. First, a “Hit and run” is just plain irresponsible.

We may never know why she decided to run that day, but regardless of who is at fault, if you are involved in a traffic collision, to drive away from the scene without ascertaining the condition and well being of anyone else in the collision is just not acceptable.

But to then decide to drive your vehicle so fast that you lose control of it going round a curve with your young son in the car is just plain negligent. Plain and simple. I firmly believe that the most honest measure of our character can be seen in how we react when we are faced with difficult situations. And to be quite frank, I think this lady was of very poor character. And she paid for her bad decisions with the life of her young son.

Some people seem to think that responsibility is something that can be shucked when it is inconvenient. In fact, the opposite is true. It is at the times when it is the most inconvenient that being responsible is of the greatest value. Is is sad that such a small inconvenience had to cost so much. Had this woman understood that, her son might still be alive today…

Woman kills her child after fleeing minor wreck – [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

The blind driving the dumb…

The same blind man I blogged about earlier has been caught behind the wheel yet again:

“We arrested the same blind man driving his car again on Saturday in the town of Torvandi, near Tartu (in southern Estonia),” said Marge Kohtla, a spokeswoman for Tartu police district. – [Yahoo/AP]

What can I say. This guy must really really have a thing about driving. I suppose the insignificant little fact that he cannot see doesn’t seem to have had much influence in the decision making process. Or he was too inebriated to even care.

This article illustrates what I consider the worst side effect of drinking. Severely impaired judgement. The bad reflexes, jacked up motor control, all these things are bad. But the worst is your inability to realize that you are, for all intents and purposes, JUBAR. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Just ask the blind man…

Blind driver caught again – [Yahoo/AP]

A nation of finger pointers…

In writing this blog, I learn things about people and life in general that I might not have had I sat blissfully ensconced in my own world behind this monitor. I find I think about things a lot more if I have to write about them.

Some of the conclusions I end up with sometimes catch me off guard. Like I realized today that we are, by and large, a nation of hypocritical finger pointers. Conflicted blame shifters. Flip-flopping fault finders. Myself included. Well I’m a conflicted finger pointer, dunno about the rest ;)

Let me explain. I came across an article today about Americas opinions about texting and driving:

Ninety-one percent of Americans believe sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as driving after having a couple of drinks, but 57 percent admit to doing it, a poll released Tuesday said. – [Reuters]

Now my math is not exactly known for it’s infallibility, but by my calculations, that would mean that at least 48 percent of the population are texting while driving, all the while advocating that it should be banned. 48 percent. Forty-Eight.

Now doesn’t that seem strange to you? That almost half the population of the United States of America is engaged in a practice they believe should be illegal? And this occurs while completely sober? Here’s another example. I recently came across a message board where some unfortunate sap got caught for speeding in the wee hours of the morning on an open stretch of deserted road.

He came to the board asking for legal advice. He got his advice, but not before enduring some scathing remarks about breaking the law by a few other folks on the board and, apparently, an active law enforcement officer. To his credit, he tried to explain that he attempted to pick the safest optimal conditions for his “speed run” however one particularly vigorous poster immediately flamed him to death for “breaking the law”.

Now I ask you: how many of those people do you think have never broken a law before? How many have gone just that little bit over the speed limit because they were late? Hogged the passing lane doing 5mph under the speed limit, while a line of increasingly irate drivers grew behind them? Had a cellphone conversation while driving? Took a pen home from work? Put on makeup/did their hair on the road? Ate lunch on the road? With a burger in one hand, a shake in the other, and a knee on the steering wheel?

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Nobody is perfect, but everyone insists they are better than everyone else. Everyone likes to be able to point a finger at another and say “He/She broke the law! That Idiot! That imbecile!”. The guy who decided to speed in the safest environment he could think of, (and actually consciously thought about it before doing so) gets flamed, while people are talking on cellphones and texting in the middle of traffic on a busy highway (without a second thought for safety) is somehow culturally more acceptable?

Whose actions are more irresponsible? Do you think the law adequately addresses the more dangerous action? My opinion: (like I have to actually say it) No! The law isn’t perfect. You should see some of the silly laws that have passed (some are still on the books!). And more to the point, people aren’t perfect. The fact that I can effortlessly find enough ludicrous stuff to talk about here, on a daily basis, is testament to that.

We all want compassion, mercy, and tolerance and yet we are so reluctant to show anyone else the same. We blame everything for our problems, TV, video games, guns, sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, frequently each other. But never ourselves. We are so quick to point a finger at everything/everyone else. But we always ignore the three pointing back at us. We suck. Big time. Epic Fail. I wish there was a reset button on this game…

Nine in 10 Americans say ban texting while driving – [Reuters]

First no arms… Now no sight? Aren’t these driving hazards?

Look, I have nothing against differently abled people trying to remain mobile. In a previous post I talked about a guy with one leg and no arms who taught himself to drive. Remarkable. I would not attempt to impose my own limitations upon what they should be able to do. But anyone with a modicum of common sense would apply some self imposed limits on what they should or should not be doing:

Police in the Baltic state of Estonia stopped a man who was driving erratically at the weekend, only to find he was blind.

The 20-year-old was driving in the southern city of Tartu early Sunday — helped by instructions from his 16-year-old passenger.

“At first they thought he was just drunk, but the man kept missing the tube for the breath test, then they realized he was blind” and arrested him, Tartu Police spokeswoman Marge Kohtla said Monday. – [Reuters]

I suppose if you watched the move Scent of a Woman in which Al Pacino plays the part of a blind ex-military man, you may remember the scene where Chris O’Donnells’ character is persuaded to let him drive, guiding him verbally, as they careen through the streets of Brooklyn NY.

Newsflash! That was a movie folks!! Trying this for real is simply irresponsible. Driving is a visual sport. You can’t have blind folk driving any more than you can have a boy girl scout. What was he thinking?!

It is hard enough to drive when you can see. Forget it if you can’t. At least until technology comes up with cybernetic optical implants. Then you can do whatever you want. Really. You can. You will. Just wait and see. Literally…

Blind man arrested for driving car – [Reuters]

Armless Driving… Wow…

there are stories that I occaisionally run across that leave me both laughing and questioning at the same time. This happens to be one of them:

A man with no arms and one leg who wouldn’t stop driving despite a long list of traffic violations was sentenced to five years in prison Friday on felony driving and drug charges.

Wiley taught himself to drive after losing both arms and a leg in an electrical accident when he was 13. He has already spent more than three years in prison for habitually driving without a license, kicking a state trooper and other charges.

He once had a valid license, but it has been suspended several times since 1985, according to his attorney. He starts the car with his toes, shifts with his knee and steers with the stump of his left arm. He turns on the lights with his teeth.

In his most recent brush with the law last May, Wiley sped off in a Ford Explorer when police approached him at a convenience store, officials said. Officers pursued, but called off the chase after eight minutes because they did not want to put others in danger, police said. – [USA Today]

I hardly know what to say. While it is admirable that this guy taught himself how to drive in spite of his crippling accident, it is unfortunate that he had the poor judgement to use the one good leg he had left (or the prosthetic replacement for the other) to assault a police officer.

I suppose that it would be difficult for anyone to have to live with the kind of limitations this guy has had to. I’m sure I would hate to have to be tied to one place day after day. I can see why he wanted to be able to get out and about. Things like this prove that being disabled is usually a challenge of the mind. If you can overcome your own or others misconceptions about what you can and cannot do, you find that you really aren’t that limited. It’s just a pity he has so many other problems to deal with.

Armless man gets 5 years for driving – [USA Today]

EU Debates 101Mph Speed limit…

The European Union is considering imposing a 101Mph speed limit on all European manufactured cars in an attempt to reduce emissions and increase efficiency:

Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat Member of European Parliament (MEP) has tabled a set of proposals to the EU Environment Committee that include harsh cuts to CO2 emissions, and a top speed limit of 162km/h for Euro-approved cars.

Mr Davies said: “Cars designed to go at stupid speeds have to be built to withstand the effects of a crash at those speeds. They are heavier than necessary, less fuel efficient and produce too many emissions. At a time when Europe is worried about its energy security it is sheer lunacy to approve the sale of gas guzzling cars designed to travel at dangerous speeds that the law does not permit.” – [GizMag]

Notwithstanding my admitted love of high horsepower engines and breakneck speeds, legislation like these generally seem to me to be the knee-jerk reaction of ignorant and narrow minded thinkers. The relationship between an engines efficiency and a cars top speed is never that simple. The same is doubly so for emissions. It is possible to make highly efficient high speed vehicles, as it is to make low emission, high horsepower engines. It’s all about the technology. Better solutions are found by fostering an environment of innovation, not prohibition.

Capping off arbitrary characteristics like top speed is meaningless, because you can have low speed vehicles that are still inefficient and produce high emissions. They might as well outlaw SUVs in Europe. I’m all about saving the environment, but lets hope people don’t cross the line into prohibition while they’re at it. Just a little bit of objective, scientific thought would go a long way here…

If they are worried about emissions and efficiency, they should just specify what they consider to be an acceptable emissions goal and efficiency rating, and let the manufacturers worry about it. That’s their job. They want to sell cars people like and they are pretty good at it. And I guarantee you they will come up with the technology to deliver that, and high horsepower, all at the same time. That’s how they make their money. And that, my friends, is how innovation works.

EU to debate 101mph speed limit for all new cars – [GizMag]

Got a lead foot? Make them raise the speed limit!!

I ran into another interesting speeding related article. A New Hampshire man has apparently decided that the best way to beat his speeding tickets is to have the state raise all the speed limits:

Rather than slow down, Lemay is suing the state Department of Transportation to study traffic and speed limits across New Hampshire, to see whether limits could be raised. Lemay’s lawsuit, filed in Strafford County Superior Court, also asks a judge to order the Transportation Department to pay for his legal fees and the cost of the study, an estimated $1,853. – [Yahoo/AP]

Well one thing you can’t say about this guy is he hasn’t got cohones of adamantium. His argument is that many states tend to implement lower speed limits than necessary in order to pad their revenue from speeding tickets. The article also stated that he also believes that higher speed limits would lead to safer driving.

Dave Hilts, the states assistant attorney general made this general rebuttal:

“Common sense will tell you that going too slow is only a hazard when other people are going much faster,” said Hilts. – [Yahoo/AP]

Hilts is mostly correct, though it does not necessarily follow that a person driving slowly on a highway is incapable of getting into an accident. However I do think that Lemays assertion about safer driving automatically resulting from higher limits is somewhat flawed. Ironically many legislators use the same flawed logic to promote lower speed limits, which is equally wrong. The biggest problem, as Hilts statement subtly suggests, lies in differences in speed, not overall faster or slower speed. It is sudden changes in speed that are dangerous. It is true that accidents that occur at higher speed are more devastating, and harder to avoid, but these are generally the result of driver error, equipment or environmental factors out of the control of the driver, and not necessarily a direct result of speeding.

Lemay, however, does make a lot of other good points. The most salient of which is that many speed limits in the US are generally too low. And I would tend to agree. As I understand it, the speed limit on any given road is determined via a “survey”. In other words, a survey is done to see how fast everyday drivers travel over a given stretch of road, and then the 85th percentile rule is applied. I.E. the limit is set to the speed at which at least 85% of those surveyed on that road drive.

This should in theory, provide a publicly safe, acceptable and enforceable speed limit, as it is generally accepted that the majority of drivers are smart enough to take into account road condition and environmental factors and will not drive beyond what they consider safe for those conditions. However in practice there is a pretty major flaw in the logic of this survey. If you follow this methodology, your results will have an inherent bias because of one, rather compelling, environmental factor. The existing speed limit.

Because all of these surveys are done on public roads where the drivers are required to obey the existing speed limit, many will not be traveling at the maximum speed that they feel safe driving for fear of being ticketed. As a result your 85th percentile speed will be artificially lowered by the existing limit, when it should actually be much higher.

The truth is that there are many, many people who drive significantly above the speed limit, and have even encountered and overcome adverse conditions and environmental factors like black ice and hydroplaning, at high speed, and have never been in or caused an accident. I also know people who have crashed into their garage doors doing 5mph. My honest opinion? Speeding is not the biggest issue. Training and experience is. Speed limits will never solve the problems as effectively as a comprehensive and rigorous driver training program, and thorough testing.

Frequent N.H. speeder wants limit raised – [Yahoo/AP]

Stop The Press!! We Got Speeders!!

I ran into this little news gem earlier today:

The Washington State Patrol says a trooper arrested two men speeding 141 mph on I-5 in Snohomish County. The patrol says the trooper thought he was hearing an airplane early Sunday as the cars whizzed by going north, a 2005 BMW 330i with a 2007 Honda Accord right behind. – [Yahoo/AP]

OK, Here’s my question. Why, exactly is this news? Was it the speed? Were the cars violating some heretofore unknown laws of physics? Are cars physically not supposed to be able to move that fast? Were the drivers too young? What? Is there some point about this particular reckless driving case that makes it so terribly different from the gazillion other instances of speeding that occur in the united states on a daily basis, that it needs news coverage?

Drivers arrested for speeding at 141 mph – [Yahoo/AP]