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Driving Behavior Is a Powerful Barometer
You Are How You Drive
Recent fatal driving behavior during a 48 hour period killed 6 people on several Central Oregon highways close to where I live. One accident involved someone going over the centerline (two lane highway), sideswiping a semi and trailer, then striking a Toyota Rave4 which exploded, killing two adults and their teenage children. This led to a four hour closure of a main north and south corridor in Central Oregon.
Another fatal accident involved a driver navigating a corner too fast crossing over the centerline, striking another driver head on, killing the second driver. Clearing the area took three hours.
A man was run over by a Chevy Suburban while lying in a lane of U.S. HIghway 97 within Bend, OR. The police are investigating whether the man was dead before being run over. This main thoroughfare through town was closed for 3.5 hours.
Speed, situational unawareness and lack of alertness. Bad driving behavior that led to these fatalities.
Early Lessons in Driving Behavior
When learning to drive and years afterward, Mom always talked about watching out for the others because you never know what they may or may not do. Be defensive and anticipatory, even if you are doing everything right. Great advice and not just regarding driving.
Mom’s wise words led to my pretty stellar driving record regarding accidents with the exception of a couple minor mishaps. One in which I was driving my mom’s baby blue Ford pinto (yes, the ugliest car ever built). A young driver failed to stop and ran into the pinto’s driver’s side toward the back. Neither of us were hurt, just slightly traumatized. The other driver apologized for not stopping, but changed her tune when her parents and the insurance company got a hold of her. Claimed I tried passing her on the right side. Both ludicrous and false. Rather than face the truth about their daughter’s dismal driving skills they placed the blame on someone they did not know.
How could someone lie about me in this way?
Since that early driving incident, I have been ever vigilant and suspicious of anyone else on the road (as well as other areas of life).
Drivers, Near Misses, Accidents and the Ramifications
I frequently drive back and forth to visit my daughter in the LA area. It is a twelve hour drive and I have become familiar with the route and conditions year around.
I can honestly say that about 10% to 15% of the drivers exhibit bad driving behavior with no concern for anyone else on the road. Cutting in and out, speeding 20 miles over the limit, never using a blinker, putting everyone at risk and for what? To show off their driving abilities, their car’s performance capabilities, get to their destination 5 or 10 minutes early?
A more recent example of incoherent driving behavior was when traveling on CA101 with my daughter near Van Nuys. In anticipation of my upcoming exit, I moved into the far right lane. As the exit came into view, I looked right for oncoming vehicles entering the highway because I would be unable to move left to let anyone in. The sun was in my eyes so I did not see the car coming up on my right side. Luckily my daughter did as she reached over and honked the crap out of my horn, shouting obscenities. According to my daughter the driver was distracted by their phone. Totally unaware of how close they were to sideswiping me.
It seems few drivers abide by the rule of yielding and merging into traffic when ENTERING the highway. Fortunately most conscientious and defensive drivers do move to the left, if they can.
Even before this incident, I had already dealt with sitting in several hours of traffic because of a 11:00 am accident resulting in one fatality on southbound CA 5, halting traffic for 6–7 hours. Vehicles were still backed up by the time we reached the Grapevine exit at 5:00 pm. This area is where motorists from Bakersfield, San Francisco and Sacramento all merge onto southbound Interstate 5. It can be tricky with thousands of vehicles all heading in the same direction.
This one accident affected not only the lives of the victims but thousands of motorists. Not to mention, the miles of semi-trucks with products to deliver.
I am growing less fond of driving and certainly less tolerant of bad driving behavior.
The Larger Issue
How many times have you been cut off with only inches between you and the imbecile that cut in front of you? What if you took your eyes off the road for just a second? Boom.
Passing or following so close is bully behavior at its worst.
Furthermore, these idiot drivers should thank those of us who do drive defensively because we save their sorry souls every day. A heavy burden because it’s not fail proof.
The quantity and quality of most public transportation I’ve come across in other countries makes me envious. Americans need to diminish their love affair with the automobile and reassess their driving behaviors. Because it is killing us in more ways than one.
Driving Behavior VS Public Behavior
I have to wonder if bad driving behavior correlates with other public displays of situational unawareness and/or narcissistic tendencies. Do you think people who fail to put their shopping carts in the coral five feet away care about whether they cut you off on the highway?
How about people who leave clothes in retail dressing rooms strewn about like garbage? Are they the same people who could give a damn whether they are tailgating you in a 65 MPH zone.
That person screaming at the grocery store employee in front of you for the dumbest reason, do you think they care if you have a green light when they run the red because they have someplace to be?
How about the person on a packed airplane who fully reclines as if they are on a barcalounger in their living room and not with 200 other people in a claustrophobic tube at 35,000 feet. Do you think they are a highway bully as well?
Driving Distractions and the Results
As I have begun to appreciate moving through life a bit slower to more fully enjoy my experiences, I have been making it a habit to abide by designated speed limits. Discovering that I feel calmer, more relaxed. My attitude is one of less concern if others pass me (unless they do so recklessly). And believe me, it is not easy letting the ego take a back seat when driving.
I often imagine what it would be like if everyone followed the speed limits. What a driving revolution!
So my question is why is everyone in such a hurry on the road? I do realize there are many factors because not that long ago I, too, was always in a hurry. And in all parts of my life.
But driving thousands of pounds of metal, plastic, glass, etc. at high speeds or under the influence or emotionally unstable is nothing short of suicide if you don’t know what you are doing or don’t care.
The state of mind people are in when they drive is something I think about when driving in certain situations. There are so many distractions in and out of the vehicle such as, children, phones, anger, eating, heated conversations, the landscape, the weather, music, fatigue, mental anguish and on and on. Driving and getting to where you are going can indeed be a risky crap shoot.
This is precisely why my mother taught me to be on alert and anticipate bad driving behavior when possible. But sometimes, it’s not possible.
In 2021, 42,939 people died in crashes and the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates the annual economic cost of these crashes is $340 billion. Over the last three years there has been an average of 114 fatal car crashes EVERY SINGLE DAY. According to the CDC, car crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for people ages 1–54. Sobering.
We all need to slow down to save ourselves and others. Realize that our behaviors have residual effects on everyone with whom we come in contact. And I am not just talking about driving.
So What Does This Have to Do With My Journey As An Artist?
I take a lot of road trips and have always enjoyed driving through various landscapes. Especially when I am alone. It is a time where my creative thoughts flow effortlessly. I gather topics for my writing and subconscious musings for my art. All while cruising through the mountains, the farm fields, orchard groves, views of the Pacific ocean, the sunrises and sunsets, the cloud formations.
But with each road trip taken, I feel a bit less at ease in continuing to use driving as a prompt for my creativity.