Drive Friendly – What A Great Slogan

Posted on November 20th, 2002 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

Texas has one of the all-time great highway slogans, which is 'Drive Friendly'. That really says it all. I try to drive friendly. I really, really do. I live in Houston, TX, which has some very nasty traffic. My morning commute is blessedly short, but I have, in the past, had typical suburban commutes, and still find myself regularly facing the challenges of rush hour.

I am very safety oriented – I never drink and drive, I always wear my seatbelt, I obey the functional speed limits, I pay scrupulous attention to school zones and slow to 20MPH. I am also a polite driver. If two lanes are having to shrink to one, I obey the one-from-this-lane-then-one-from-that-lane protocol. I let people out of parking lots into traffic. I slow down to give the merge-impaired a chance to get onto the freeway alive. I always use my blinker (this is also a safety thing, but I'm listing it the 'politeness' section intentionally). I watch for pedestrians, especially downtown, where Houston's drivers-who-don't-really-understand-pedestrians meet pedestrians-who-don't-really-understand-walking-across-traffic-heavy-streets.

I also work very hard to not get riled when I drive. I am an easy-going person, by nature. I'm all in favor of live-and-let-live. I understand that, while all those other drivers are just traffic to me, I am just traffic to them. I think that the best way for us to all maintain our sanity is just to….Drive Friendly.

Sneaky Pete's
But…oh my…what is it with some people? Are they egocentric, sociopathic, or both? I'll give you an example, to which all of you can relate. If you head west on I-10 from downtown, and then exit to the loop 610 going south, the exit is only one lane. And it's almost always backed up. And I, like the vast majority of folks trying to make that exit, get into the appropriate lane and wait it out. And, as I sit there, I see all the egocentric morons who slip by to my right and left, zoom up to the head of the line, and then cut into the exit lane. Granted, there may be one or two who really don't know there is only one lane. But the vast majority of drivers follow the same route every day, and know the score. But they still pull what I like to call a 'Sneaky Pete'. They somehow feel that they have the right to bypass all the other drivers and then cut into the line.

Do these people remember kindergarten, where most of us learned that it is not polite to cut in line? Do they think that none of the drivers in line have thought to do what they did? Why is it, you Sneaky Petes, that none of the other people in line do what you do? Do you think we don't have the guts? That we didn't think of it? That we don't have extremely important, urgent business to attend to? That we somehow don't possess the magical key that frees us from social convention? Do you realize that what you are doing is exactly the same as cutting in at the head of the line at Starbucks? Or at the movie theater? I've heard some Sneaky Pete's say that, well, it just enrages them to watch other people do it while they sit in line, so they go ahead and do it too. Wonderful logic. I want all of you Sneaky Pete's to try something for me: for just one week, don't do it. Stay in your lane. Drive Friendly. And then pay attention to two things. First, how the other Sneaky Pete's make you feel, and what your opinion is of them. And second, is that how you see yourself? A selfish, egocentric, sociopathic prick (or bitch, for you Sneaky Paula's)? If that's who you are, then go with it, but do it with the knowledge of just how selfish it is.

Staring Contest (not blinking)
Which brings me to my second favorite traffic gripe, which is those cars which seem to have been produced without blinkers. Please keep these things in mind with regards to blinkers:

1. Even though *you* know you are in a left-turn-only lane, that doesn't mean that every other driver at the intersection can deduce that information. Turn on your &%@$#%% blinker.

2. If you want into my lane, and you have your blinker on, I will let you in. If you try to play chicken with me without your blinker, you will lose to me and my 4WD Ford Expedition. Turn on your $^!@#@ blinker.

3. You are not omnipresent, so even if you don't see any other cars, turn on your %@$#% blinker.

4. When you are turning or changing lanes, use your blinker. It can't get much simpler than that.

Which brings me to my next subject, which is tailgaters. I've had numerous conversations with several different chronic tailgaters, and the most surprising part to me is the sense of entitlement, and total disregard of safety, exhibited by tailgaters. If you are tailgating, and the person in front of you slams on their brakes, you are now involved in an accident. Period. No human has the reaction time to stop that quickly. Do the math: if you are traveling at 60MPH and you are five feet behind the car in front of you, you have exactly .056 seconds to react. That's about a half-second. Are your reactions that fast? If you were totally focused, then maybe (if you were also incredibly lucky, or a fighter pilot), but if you're totally focused on your precise tailgating maneuver, that means you are totally neglecting all other normal traffic observation, which also makes you a rolling merchant of death. I've also heard tailgaters say that if they follow further back, then other folks will cut into their lane. That is a sad fact, and says a lot about the Sneaky Pete's that do it, but it does not justify risking killing other drivers. So back the $%$#%@#$ off.

So, every once in a great while you find yourself moving along in traffic, not full speed, but moving smoothly, and all the cars are maintaining a reasonable separation as they motor along. And then what happens? What happens is that some jerk feels that, since there are spaces between the cars, he must play leapfrog-lane-change to establish a 3-5mph speed advantage over traffic. So, he zooms up and tailgates the car in front of him, and then cuts over to the lane next door, usually without signaling (because if he signaled, the person in that lane might recognize what he was doing and not let him in), then zooms up and tailgates the next person, and cuts over to the lane next door, and so on. And upstream this jerk goes, just slightly faster than the rest of the traffic, but using the worst combination of tailgating and not signaling, endangering himself and all the other drivers. And for what? A net 3-5mph advantage. If that. Meanwhile he leaves a trail of near-misses, frayed nerves, and roiled traffic in his wake. Again, do you think we don't think to do it, or don't know how, or aren't in a rush? We do, and we are. But we are also trying to Drive Friendly. Why do you insist on driving us crazy? Please, just go with the ^%$$#@ flow.

Nature's Lubricant
Water, water everywhere, but jerks don't stop and think. They don't stop and think that the stopping distance on a wet road is at least double that of a dry road. And that's assuming that you don't hydroplane or skid, both of which have an excellent chance of happening if you don't have anti-lock brakes. But, even with ABS, your stopping distance will be at least double. Also, ABS won't help you if you have to perform accident avoidance maneuvering, meaning that you also have an increased chance of spinning and/or sliding sideways on wet roads. And on top of all of that, visibility is greatly reduced by falling rain and splashed up road mist.

And, when it rains, I notice that many people on the road immediately slow down and increase their following distances accordingly. But I also notice that there are also many drivers who not only don't slow down, but also take advantage of the other driver's greater separation to play lane-change-leapfrog. They actually seem angry and aggressive that traffic has slowed down, and they seem to whip across lanes with even more derring-do than normal.

Do these folks not understand physics? Friction? Momentum? Or do the laws of physics not apply to people who are in a hurry? Well, unfortunately, they do. No amount of reaction time and driving skill can make a car stop as quickly on a wet road as a dry one. Water is a natural lubricant, as you may have noticed if you've ever slipped on wet concrete or tile. It has the exact same effect on your car tires. There may be those out there who would read the above and think, yeah, I know that, but so what? I still need to get where I'm going, and I've always driven this way and I've never had an accident in the rain. Wonderful logic. They not only don't understand physics, they also don't understand probability. Well, at least Darwinian forces will someday remove morons like them from the road, I just hope they don't kill me or mine while they enjoy their borrowed time.

Road Rage
This one is a toughie, because I have to fight to keep my anger under control in traffic, myself. I try, I really try, to drive friendly. And safely. But I am faced with a constant parade of jerks and idiots who take advantage of my safety and politeness without compunction. I'd like to compunction them right in the jaw. I'm not talking about the rest of the traffic, the other folks trying to get where they're going while maintaining their dignity and humanity. I'm talking about the jerks and idiots. You *know* who you are. You tailgate, you don't signal, you swim upstream, you cause gridlock, you accelerate through yellow lights, you pull Sneaky Pete's, you park in handicapped spaces, you drive while tipsy, you drive on the shoulder, you take two parking spaces, you ignore school zones (okay, pet peeve…I drive by fancy, upscale schools, and the soccer moms in their Sequoias and BMWs and Mercedes don't even *think* about slowing down in their own $%!@#$% school zones, but I can just imagine the wailing that would occur if one of their children were tragically killed by a speeder in a school zone), you hold your cell phone while taking notes and trying to drink your Starbucks while tailgating, you treat the roads as if you were the only sentient being in existence, and the entire endeavor was a video game, and your goal was to get through it as quickly as possible, regardless of the risks or consequences.

Well, traffic involves real people, and traffic accidents involve real death. Is your everyday life so important that you can justify callously risking other people's lives every single day, just so you can shave 5 minutes off of your commute? Please redo that math, and remember to Drive Friendly.

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