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next week's column: What Drives Me Crazy


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:


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.


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.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 30th, 2007 12:41 am (UTC)
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.

Sadly, you'd be interested in this link just_sue posted.
Dec. 1st, 2007 06:23 am (UTC)
Yep, that sounds all too familiar .... :-(
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:55 am (UTC)
As someone who works as a prosecutor in traffic arraignment court, AMEN!
Dec. 1st, 2007 06:36 am (UTC)
Since I work in emergency dispatch, volunteer as a firefighter, drive our roads ,*and* work for the local newspaper, I get to see it from every sad angle!
Nov. 30th, 2007 08:52 am (UTC)
Hmm - drivers are much the same world-wide. It's the 4WD brigade that tend to annoy me the most - or maybe not - actually I think it is the total idiots like the girl in the link that Gill mentioned.
Dec. 1st, 2007 12:57 am (UTC)
That one is way beyond the pale. So-called "normal" drivers who annoy me most are probably idiots towing caravans with underpowered cars on single-lane roads in mountainous terrain. Like North Wales. Grr.
Dec. 1st, 2007 06:43 am (UTC)
I've got a pet peeve for people who pull out in front of you, then drive *under* the speed limit. If they're in no hurry, why not just wait until I get by? (Who am I kidding? I've got dozens of pet peeves!)
Dec. 1st, 2007 06:37 am (UTC)
The percentage of people like that girl who drive 4WD's seems to be higher, although I confess to seeing no official studies on that!
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
Well I'm not a driver but this entire column was highly entertaining. I did note your pedestrian tips ;)
Dec. 1st, 2007 06:38 am (UTC)
Yes, the pedestrians need some advice too! I'm glad you liked it -- sometimes I manage to put my annoyances to some use.

Edited at 2007-12-01 06:42 am (UTC)
Nov. 30th, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
Ricky and I were driving in town the other day, and people wouldn't move out of the way for a police car. He said when he went back into town later, another police car (or maybe this was the ambulance..) was stuck - lights and sirens on, WAVING FOR PEOPLE TO MOVE OUT OF HIS WAY - and still no one would move.

:( You didn't tell me that was how you hurt your back...
Dec. 1st, 2007 06:42 am (UTC)
Well, the original way I hurt my back was when our breathing air tanks were steel, and we had this big downtown fire; even after we got chased out of the building I didn't take the time to shrug it off, and ended up wearing the thing for about six hours straight. I always had some chronic back pain after that. I was helping bring the body up an embankment years later when suddenly -- wham! -- pulles a muscle in my back. That was some serious pain ...

The thing is, the dead guy we were hauling up the embankment was one of the aforementioned stupid drivers, who tried to straighten the curve around an area lake. The lake had been there long before he ever was. :-(
Dec. 1st, 2007 12:56 pm (UTC)
It spins me out the number of people who still don't know what blinkers are for. I wish it was an anomaly.
They get into accidents because most of us can’t concentrate on two important things at once.
Unfortunately, this often includes an inability to drive and pay attention to the road. If this is an issue for you, please hand in your licence before you kill someone.

And for those that think tailgating is funny, allow me to tell you a tale of the guy you could be tailgating. When people got a little to close to this guy while he was driving on the freeway, the voices in his head got a bit upset and he slammed on the handbrake, which did not trigger the tail lights to give the tailgating driver any warning. As insurance companies consider the driver at fault to be the one in the car at the back, Mr Handbrake wasn't identified as being a wee bit insane until he'd pulled this stunt more than six times. While this bampot is off the road, I'm betting there's a hell of a lot more like him out there, including the ones who do it for fun.
Dec. 2nd, 2007 08:10 am (UTC)
Hm ... I almost sympathize with the handbrake guy -- almost. He got tailgated once too often -- and snapped. That doesn't make it right, but I have had to fight the urge to "brake-check" some idiot more than once. Of course, that depends on how far behind the other guy actually was -- using the handbrake would be trouble even for someone following at a reasonable distance, or in heavy traffic where you really can't back off.

Overall, it falls into the category of "two wrongs don't make a right". Not that I haven't fantasized about the little level that releases spikes and/or oil.
Dec. 2nd, 2007 08:29 am (UTC)
Maybe you should start looking at adding some James Bond style deterrents to your car. You can start with the smoke screen and oil slick, escalate to the spikes, then use the machine guns and rocket launcher for the serious offenders.

I wasn't kidding about Handbrake Guy hearing voices. He was hearing voices in his head and should not have been driving. It wasn't until the insurance company thought he was in one too many of these types of accidents that he was flagged for assessment and a mental illness was discovered. He is off the roads now.

Most variants of Handbrake Guy will be the bloke who snaps and not an undiagnosed loon. Still, you never really know if the guy you're harassing in traffic will be pushed that step too far by your actions, snap and reach for the shotgun; or he's the neighbourhood serial killer who will deal with your rudeness at soon as he's dealt with the body already in his boot.
Dec. 2nd, 2007 09:13 am (UTC)
Yep, Handbrake Guy was looney tunes, alright, and I"m glad they got him off the road. I've seen the variants before, myself, and it's exactly why I caution people to just let the little driving slights go. More than anything else, you never know when the guy you encountered is already half crazed, just broke up with his girlfriend, just found an old hand grenade he's been aching to try out -- whatever. Next thing you know he's driving slowly back and forth in front of your house, clicking the safety off ...

Anyway, James Bond style cars are exactly what I was thinking about. I'm for going straight to the rocket launchers.
Dec. 2nd, 2007 12:02 pm (UTC)
Or the flamethrowers. You get iced up roads in your neck of the woods, don't you? Surely you could legitimately install flamethrowers for Winter use.

That just reminded me of an anti-carjacking device I'd seen from South Africa. I know they were illegal here, so have no idea if they made it to the US. It looked very much like flamethrowers were mounted under the vehicle at both front doors. The carjackers come along, you trigger it from inside the vehicle and this wall of flame shot out both sides of the car and barbecued the bad guys. Most spectacular.
Dec. 3rd, 2007 08:12 am (UTC)
I want one!
I'd been thinking of flamethrowers purely as an anti-crime device, but considering the ice storm we just went through, you've definitely come upon another use for them! Sadly, they're also illegal here; I couldn't find a flamethrower at all when I was having the flea problem. It's still a great idea, though.
Dec. 15th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)
Haha. I think it's because they learn all their navigational skills in the high school hallways. Unfortunately, pushing someone out of your way doesn't work as well in heavy machinery.

Although your points were painfully basic, maybe seeing how stupid their mistakes sounds will make people pay better mind on the roads. Of course, my number one advice for drivers in Michigan (aside from bringing good tunes because on 20% of the freeway you will be doing 10 mph) is not to drive a foreign car around Motor City. Ah, different community standards ;)

Driver's Ed programs definately need some reform. I think the worst thing that ever happened to them was moving them out of the schools. Now you have places you go to and basically pay to get your liscence. The schools were a little tougher. They didn't want you driving around their parking lot, anyway.
Dec. 15th, 2007 09:33 am (UTC)
What -- you think people read my columns and take them seriously?!? :->

I agree, drivers ed should have stayed in schools and stayed tough. Way too many people get licenses when they shouldn't.

I've driven in Michigan a lot -- when I was married, my wife's father had a vacation cottage along Lake Bellaire, north of Traverse City. Back then I thought Michigan drivers were more reckless on average than Hoosiers, but since then it seems everyone has caught the bad driving bug. However, the worst driving I've ever seen was in the parking lot of my daughter's school, especially at about 3:05 p.m. Now, that's terrifying.
Dec. 15th, 2007 09:52 am (UTC)
*snorts* You're saying something in your column, are you not? Making a point? People will take it, most of the time probably to prove that they're not like the people you are mercilessly making fun of that week.

Hehe. In my old Driver's Ed class, there was a statistic in our book that 95% of Michigan drivers think that they are one of the only competent people on the road. Coincidentally, my most prominent memories from that class was the video about road rage and the instructions about what to do if a bug gets in your car.

Ah, the school parking lot . . . >.> . . . luckily, because of band, I always left early or late and avoided the huge rush. Good thing, too . . . I'm a nervous driver. I assume that'll pass with experience, but for now I try to avoid getting myself in troublesome situations.
Dec. 15th, 2007 10:53 am (UTC)
Okay, you caught me -- I *do* like to make a point in my columns. Don't tell -- it might scare people off. *Innocent whistle*

I believe that statistic! We all think we're better drivers than anyone else: The guy tailgating us is a reckless idiot, and the guy *we're* tailgating is a slowpoke moron. Just the same, I maintain that we should all have the right to ram anyone who doesn't use their turn signal.

Jillian leaves late sometimes because of show choir -- she likes that very much. Still, she doesn't seem to be a very nervous driver; in fact, I'm more nervous knowing she's out among the idiots on our streets than she is. I'd like to think she's also avoiding troublesome situations, but it's impossible to avoid every idiot behind the wheel.
Dec. 15th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
*grins* Take THAT one to the Supreme Court. Taking justice into your own hands and all of that. Of course, you'd probably dent the front of your car doing so . . . would that really be worth it? That does bother me, though, but moreso when I'm a pedestrian because it makes crossing streets more difficult when people in the cars don't want to tell you what they intend to do.

*nods* I don't think you have anything to be nervous about -- though you will be anyway, being a parent and all -- because she doesn't seem like the type to be a speed demon, from what I've heard, which means she's exercising the right amount of confidence and caution. Overly nervous drivers can be as dangerous as reckless drivers. And more irritating. I don't worry so much about bad drivers. Merging and turning left -- on some roads -- makes me nervous. Like I said, experience.
Dec. 16th, 2007 09:30 am (UTC)
Would it be worth it? Totally. Totally. But then, my car is a decrepit piece of junk and you can't get blood out of a turnip, and I would simply (and accurately) argue that the moron didn't give me enough warning before he suddenly changed lanes/slowed to turn. So there. *sticks tongue out*

But some small, civilized part of me has so far kept my road rage under control, so I think I'll be okay. :-)

Experience makes most drivers better ... but it makes some drivers worse. There are those who get comfortable, then get overconfident, then start taking foolish chances. Then, if they survive that long, they look back at how close they came to killing themselves and become more cautious again. This is when the new crop of overconfident drivers start tailgating them, and they begin to suffer road rage.

*sigh* And now you know my driving history.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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