Just about everyone I know is on the road at one time or another, and almost all of us have done something -- well -- stupid. At one time or another. As usual, only a few get all the attention, and those few usually get it by being stupid not once, but all the time, thus guaranteeing through the law of chance that their stupidity will be witnessed and commented on.
So I’m commenting. I don’t know what they teach in driver’s education these days, but it’s clear we need to update the primer to include some information that today’s drivers just don’t seem to be getting. So here are some suggestions, just in time for the winter driving season:
FOR FOUR WHEEL DRIVES:
Yes, you can get stuck. The best piece of four wheeling advice I ever heard was to always keep your vehicle in two wheel drive. That way, if you get stuck, you can shift into four wheel drive and make it out. If you’re already in four wheel drive when you get stuck, remaining options are limited.
Being in four wheel drive does not make you a god. You’re as much a victim of deer, ice, other drivers, and traffic laws as the guy in the Chevy Lumina.
Ice thinks you’re funny. Watch the History Channel often enough, and sooner or later you’ll see footage taken in Europe during December, 1944, in which a Sherman tank is seen sliding sideways down a road. A Sherman tank. To a patch of ice, your Expedition is just a big, expensive toboggan.
When the weatherman says to stay off the roads if at all possible, that is not Latin for “Let’s go have some fun”. If you get your SUV stuck at 2 a.m., don’t be surprised if it stays there until morning.
On a related note: If you get stuck in the middle of the road and walk home with plans to pick it up later, but don’t notify the police, don’t be surprised if it’s not there in the morning.
Finally -- yes, the guy in the passenger car does have the right to be on the road.
FOR SPEED DEMONS:
Tailgating the above mentioned passenger car is only funny to you, and then only until somebody gets hurt.
The speed limit is usually 55. Even for you. Yes, almost all of us speed, but if you’re going 65 and a cop gives you a ticket, you’re the one in the wrong -- unless you’re on the interstate.
If the guy in front of you is doing 45, I can understand being a little upset at him. That doesn’t change the fact that passing him in a curve on a hill is always a bad idea. Always.
If the guy in front of you is doing 55, sorry for your bad luck, but he’s driving the speed limit. If you want to get mad, get mad at yourself for not leaving earlier.
You can be driving the speed limit, and still go too fast for the road conditions. This comes as a great shock to many people.
If you don’t like sharing the road, buy some property and build your own road.
Playing tag with moving vehicles is like Russian Roulette with five bullets in the gun. Anyone who thinks it’s funny is a moron. Look around at the people who are laughing at your little game: Are these the people you want to spend your last moments on Earth with?
Yes, sometimes you have to walk in the street. That doesn’t mean the middle of the street, and that doesn’t mean you don’t have to get out of the way for oncoming vehicles. Right or wrong, no pedestrian ever won an argument with a pickup.
There’s a game where kids deliberately walk in front of oncoming cars (as opposed to just walking in the street and ignoring oncoming cars). There’s also a game where a group of people inside a building throw a cocked pistol into the air, and wait to see what happens when the gun goes off. Both games require about the same mental capacity.
If you do any of these things and end up lying on the pavement, with your leg going in a new direction, I will be very sympathetic -- to the driver of the car.
See that little stick on the left side of your steering wheel? If you move that down, a little light blinks on the left side of your vehicle. If you move it up, a light will blink on the right side. Amazing, what they can do with modern technology. Think about that really, really hard, and you may figure out the purpose of those little blinking lights. Hint: They’re not Christmas decorations.
Safety belts save lives, thus the name. Seriously. It was in all the papers.
We’re all required to move aside for emergency vehicles. Apparently it has something to do with them going to emergencies.
People don’t get into accidents just because they’re using cell phones, or eating spaghetti, or performing a sex act. They get into accidents because most of us can’t concentrate on two important things at once. If you really have the ability to shave and drive at the same time, fine. But if you have to choose between reading the newspaper and driving, you probably should choose driving. My column will wait until you get home.
Mark Hunter is a 27 year veteran of the fire service who once threw his back out while hauling a mangled body from the wreckage of a pickup truck. He only drives stupid sometimes.