Road rage

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I wish someone would pass a law making it illegal for anyone to own or operate a vehicle unless their name is identical to the one on my Driver’s License.  Although at first glance, that may seem a little extreme, I am convinced that such a course of action is really the only way to get rid of all the idiots out there on the road.  Every time I take a drive, I swear that I see at least a dozen such idiots behind the steering wheels of hurtling steel and glass weapons of mass destruction.

Shockingly enough, when someone’s idiotic driving habits force me to pass them on a blind curve, frequently I’ll look over at the driver on my way past and discover that it is someone I know.  In real life, these morons appear to be completely normal, rational people, but put them behind a steering wheel and they enter their own universe, oblivious to the rules of common courtesy and civilized society. 

Whenever I can catch their eye, I mouth earnest words of admonition, pumping the air with my closed fist to demonstrate my sincerity.  It seems to have no effect.  They look sharply away and stare fixedly at the road ahead while their knuckles grow white on the top of their steering wheel.  They are obviously set in their ways and have closed their minds to any constructive criticism. 

It is in hopes of appealing to at least one idiot’s sense of shame that I offer a list of the five most common idiotic driving mistakes.  I can only hope that by reading the following list in black and white, a glimmer of understanding will be sparked that may in time persuade them to moderate the hazardous behaviors which daily place responsible drivers like me at risk.

Turn Signals

The first idiotic driving habit is the improper use of turn signals.  I don’t know how many times I have witnessed a driver dutifully activating their turn signal for the last hundred feet before their turn and then canceling it immediately upon completing the turn.  It makes me crazy!  Such drone-like thinking can get you killed!  Creativity. Improvisation.  That’s what keeps drivers alive on the highways. 

Think of the driver’s manual as a brainstorming resource.  It gives you the raw material to stimulate your thinking.  From its sketchy outline of suggestions there are limitless possibilities for expansion and customization until you have developed a driving style which is distinctive to you. 

Turn signals provide the perfect example.  Imagine the possibilities of using those under-appreciated blinking lights in a variety of scenarios.  I’ve noticed for instance that if I leave my left turn signal on after I’ve made my turn, I don’t have to worry about people passing me.  I find this technique especially useful on a gravel road, where a vehicle passing on my left might very easily throw a rock into my windshield.  An additional advantage is that I can see clearly without having to eat the dust of some idiot in front of me.  This technique significantly elevates the safety and comfort of my driving experience.

Another creative way I have found to use my turn signals is to wait until a car’s length prior to my turn before activating them.  Of course, I begin slowing down at least 1500 feet before the turn and for safety’s sake, I always like to come to a complete stop before initiating the turn, so that I can evaluate the texture of the road surface and visually note all traffic in or approaching the intersection.  I do this any time I get a bad vibe about the turn.  I don’t want to commit myself to turning until I’m absolutely sure that it’s safe. 

It’s a good thing I do, too.  You wouldn’t believe the experiences I’ve had at intersections.  It is not at all uncommon to have some idiot roar by me on the left, just after I’ve executed my pre-turn stop, but prior to activating my left turn signal.  If I hadn’t stopped when I did, there could have been a nasty collision. 

Many times when I’m decelerating to make a right-hand turn, I’ll notice a vehicle just sitting at the intersection with their car idling, staring at me.  I tell you, this world’s full of kooks!  I go ahead and do my safety stop, and begin evaluating the intersection.  At this point, the guy in the driver’s seat of the parked car frequently intensifies his stare and begins flapping his arms about, fingers spread and palms upturned.  It gives me the creeps, I tell you! 

I hesitate, trying to decide if I should commit to turning so close to a driver with obvious mental health issues. I decide to risk it.  I flick on my right turn signal.  My goodness!  The faces some people can make!  I think I’ve gotten more one fingered salutes in situations like this than in any other.  Suddenly the idiot stomps his accelerator, laying smoking rubber for half a mile as he squeals out into the intersection and away!  Where are the cops when you need them?

A third technique is to not use the turn signals at all.  As an American citizen, I have a right to my privacy and in the rare situation where I want someone to know that I’m turning, I’ll use my signals.  After all, I know when I want to turn, and when I’m ready, I simply do it.  This saves wear and tear on the light bulb and effectively conceals my intentions from any credit collectors or State Troopers that might be following me.

High Beams

The second idiotic driving habit on my list  regards the usage of high beam headlights.  I can’t stress enough the importance of driving with your high beams on at all times.  Alaska is literally crawling with moose and bears and bison and hitchhikers and mailboxes ready to leap out in front of you at any moment.  The more long range visibility you have, the safer your trip will be.

And yet it never fails that while driving after dark, some oncoming vehicle will have his lights on low beam, barely dribbling a puddle of light mere feet in front of his vehicle.  That’s all fine and good.  Whatever gives them their jollies!  The really annoying thing is that inevitably the idiot starts flicking his high beams off and on—off and on.  Why can’t they make up their mind?  I try to ignore them and go about my driving, when–wouldn’t you know it?—they wait until they are almost abreast of me and then suddenly flick on a bank of fog lights that are rack-mounted on the roof of their pickup cab!  I go instantly blind and nearly drive off the road!  Don’t these people have any compassion?

Reasonable Speed

The third idiotic driving habit involves people that can’t drive a decent speed.  Literally everybody but me either drives too fast or too slow.  There are a couple of techniques for dealing with idiots like these.

If they are traveling too fast, they will come up behind you.  When you notice them gaining rapidly in your rearview mirror, simply steer to the left until your vehicle is straddling the center lane.  Stay there until you arrive at your destination, only moving back into your lane briefly to allow approaching traffic to pass.  You will find that this simple technique will encourage everyone behind you to travel at a sensible speed.

If, on the other hand, the idiot is driving too slowly, simply approach the back of his vehicle until your hood ornament obscures his license plate.  Maintain this distance until the slowpoke accelerates to a reasonable speed, or pulls off of the road.  I guarantee that you will see results within 15 miles.  If not, repeated and prolonged application of your horn should be supplemented until the desired result is achieved.

The last three idiotic driving habits may not always be relevant in much of Alaska, but seem to be chronic in the lower 48.  In the sordid realms that we Alaskans call “outside”, where you find interstate highways intertwined with vast complexes of secondary roads,  thrives a whole new breed of idiots.  Beware of them when you find it necessary to leave the comfortable frost heaves and potholes of our fair state.

Entrance Ramps

There you will encounter things called “interstate entrance ramps”.  Be not deceived.  This is merely an innocuous name for some of the most diabolical death traps ever devised by highway engineers.  The idea is for a driver to launch his vehicle off of this thing into a four lane wide, 70 mph raging river of tractor trailers and Greyhound buses.

Caution and common sense would scream at you to slowly drive to the bottom of the ramp, park, and wait for the traffic to go away before entering the interstate highway.  That’s what I do, and you will notice that I am still alive today.  I seem to be one of an overwhelmed minority, though.  You should see the idiots!  Rather than slowing down and proceeding with caution, they literally accelerate down the ramp and recklessly plunge into a tiny gap between hurtling semis!  What can I say?  The insanity speaks for itself.

Then you have what I call the “sheep factor”.  Once you successfully enter the interstate highway system, you find yourself on a road where two or three lanes are going the same direction.  It’s exactly like a one way street in Fairbanks, except completely different.  So here you are on three perfectly good lanes, with no oncoming traffic.  Where can you drive?  Come-on, folks, this isn’t rocket science.  They’re all going the same direction!  It doesn’t matter!  Pick a lane any lane, but for Pete’s sake, pick one that gives you a little reaction time, right?

Wrong!  These idiots will actually get in a row in the right lane and follow each other for hundreds of miles.  To the left of them beckon one or two inviting lanes with not nearly as much traffic, yet they continue to congest the right lane, playing follow the leader. Surreally, nobody seems to understand the potential for disaster here.  What if the guy four cars ahead of you stops suddenly?  What do you have?  The domino effect:  a multi-vehicle pileup, right? 

So here’s what I do.  I move all the way over to the left lane and I stay there.  I’m driving the same speed they are, in the same direction they are, yet without the risks.  If I wasn’t as humble as I am, I’d call myself brilliant.  An added perk is that I end up being the leader of my own string of followers.  Behind me, as far as I can see, there are two solid lines of traffic, yet before me, the highway is clear.  I usually wind up being literally the only one on the interstate that doesn’t have to worry about rear-ending the guy in front of him.  I guess not everyone has been blessed with my instincts for safety.

Four Way Stops

The last idiotic driving behavior on my list involves what they call a “four-way stop”.  This is where you have a crossroad, yet all four lanes entering the intersection display a stop sign.  How stupid is that?  Four cars arrive at the intersection within seconds of each other.   All four have a stop sign.  There they sit!  Whoever came up with that arrangement must have just crossed the thin line between genius and insanity! 

As you may have guessed, I am very safety minded in my driving habits.  That’s more than can be said of the 9 million people who are sitting at a four way stop as you read this sentence.  From my experience, they will begin to randomly proceed through the intersection.  I never have discovered a pattern to their decision process.  It’s not clockwise, and it’s not counterclockwise, it’s just willy nilly.  It’s a miracle that four way stop intersections aren’t a perpetual smoldering pile of shattered glass, twisted steel and corpses!

Being the sensible, cautions man that I am, I always let everyone else go first.  If I notice another vehicle arriving at the intersection, I wait for him, too.  It’s the only decent and safe thing to do.  You’d think the other drivers would appreciate my courtesy, but they don’t.  Sometimes they get downright rude!  They flash their lights and honk their horns and give me the one-fingered salute. 

That used to puzzle me and bother me a lot, but I finally figured out that most drivers are threatened by competency.  It shines the spotlight on their idiocy, and I guess that must be a really uncomfortable feeling.  I wouldn’t know.  I’ve never had that issue.

Well, I don’t mean to cut this short, but I’ve got to run to the store before they close.  I’m not looking forward to it.  I’d be willing to bet that while I’m en route I will encounter another vehicle.  Between that driver and myself, one of us will be driving like an idiot.  I don’t need to tell you which one.

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