Bad Drivers

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Bad drivers are, well…driving us crazy!  This is a ubiquitous problem.  All ages are guilty.

Yes, there are tailgaters, drivers who let everyone merge in front of them, and people who go at a snail’s pace through lights so you get stuck waiting for the next green light.  Grrr!

We will ignore the issue of dogs in the back of pickups because we thought the hate mail might be more than we can handle.  Some other fools can point out that an estimated 100,000 dogs die each year riding in the back of trucks—flying out during an accident, falling out accidentally, or sliding out the back of an open tailgate.

No, we are talking behaviors that cause us to spew profanities, cause road rage, and are undeniably dangerous: driving through red lights—not amber, RED; cruising at or below posted speed limits in the left hand lane; texting or talking on cell phones; and…driving while old.

There is no law that says if you’ve been stopped at a light you have the right to go through the next one.  More and more drivers routinely go through red lights, especially turn lights.  We get it.  Some turn lanes have short green lights.  Cope!  Running a red light is insane, overworks middle fingers, and really dirties the crosswalk with all that glass from the accident.  Weigh patience with wildly increased insurance payments.  Red means…stop!!!

We just don’t get the cruising in the left lane thing.  Are people oblivious?   Arrogant?  Vision-impaired?  Paternalistic?  If I have to go the speed limit, so do you?  Nah…nah…nah.  It is not your job to patrol the roads and keep people at or below the posted limit.  Let those rabbits speed ahead and draw the traffic cop’s attention.  When there are five cars behind you and you are being tailgated, take a hint.  That’s what rearview mirrors are for.  Move right!  You are generating frustration, leading to outrageous behavior by other drivers who are looking for any chance to pass you on the right.  You might not be in an accident, but could you cause one??  Yup.

Left lane hogs came in third in a recent study of causes of road rage.  Tailgating came in second and, wait for it, texting topped the charts.

None of these annoying and dangerous behaviors have gotten the attention that texting while driving has instigated.  Have you seen those videos??  Death and destruction everywhere.  Heck, a safety organization has even deemed April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”  April is an appropriate choice; texters are fools.

Texting is the culprit in 80 percent of all teen crashes.  A concerned group in Colorado, Texting Thumb Bands, posts these stats.  Texting while driving causes 6,000 deaths and 330,000 injuries per year, kills 11 teens every day, makes  “texters”  23 times more likely to have an accident, and is the same as driving after drinking four beers.

Another group has invented a new phrase: “driving while intexticated.”  Very clever.

So, texting is a no-no.  But, even using hands-free technologies to talk on the phone while driving apparently isn’t safe.  Estimates say that cell phone use is involved in 26 percent of all car crashes.  (We were surprised it was that low!)  Like everyone else, we thought that hands-free devices were the responsible choice.  Not true.  Our brains are distracted by the conversation.  Research shows that talking drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, potentially resulting in drivers not seeing items right in front of them, including stop signs, pedestrians, and bicyclists.  Hands-free does not equal emotion-free.  Here’s a concept…if you want to text or talk…pull over!!!

Even our hi-tech dashboards are distracting…the radio, GPS, DVD player.  Car companies say these technologies—that increase car prices—are safe.  But, are they?  Nope.  Car makers are not particularly prone to the truth.  Think Volkswagen and GM for starters.

We will not get into DUIs and DWIs.  That’s easy.  Don’t drink and drive!!  Many of us have been lucky and not stopped; but, more importantly, we didn’t hurt anyone and learned our lesson.  Take designated drivers seriously.  Don’t even get on a bicycle!

Marijuana is an interesting contrast.  A new study finds that drivers who use marijuana are at a significantly lower risk for a crash than drivers who use alcohol.   What?????

Hmmm.  It could be that pot smokers who get behind the wheel tend to drive slower than the speed limit.  Driving stoned somehow makes 25 miles an hour feel like 50.  Totally entertained by the “Saturday Night Live” spoof—a billboard urging stoned drivers to “speed up.”   Still not a good idea.  Stoned drivers are twice as likely as an unimpaired driver to have an accident.

Lastly…the tough one.  When do you give up your car keys or take them away from mom or dad?  Driving is a key to many oldies’ independence.  This is a very individual issue.  Some oldies are fine.   But, most of us are going to outlive our ability to drive…by 10 years.  That’s a startling stat.

Clues are vision, hearing loss, dexterity, disease, and medications.  Okay…here’s an obvious one.  If you have dementia, don’t drive.  Our dad’s driver’s license was automatically renewed when he was 85.  Hey, at least make him take a driver’s test.  It’s hard to tell a parent it’s over.  If he failed his test…problem solved.  No family angst.

The “conversation” about the keys should emphasize that you care.  And, importantly, include research you’ve done on transportation that is available to them.  Options.  Options are always good.

We giggled over some online, last resort advice.  Disable the car by removing the battery cable or distributor cap.  Honesty is not always the best policy, apparently.

So, our wrinkled wisdom for today?  Get the message when your friends are silent when you say you are a good driver, or when they always insist on doing the driving, or when everyone is passing you on the right.  Save money for a self-driving car. (Although they may not be the panacea we are all hoping for!)  Remember that it is important to complete your personal hygiene at home.  And, also remember that not all states have laws that fine drivers for obviously dangerous behaviors.  Write your legislators and demand new or tougher laws/penalties for running lights, left-lane hogs, texting/cell phone use, and other dangerous driving behaviors.  Since we are old, we hate to push for mandatory driving tests for those of us over 70.  But, crap, probably a good idea.  And, PUT YOUR DAMN CELL PHONE AWAY WHEN YOU’RE BEHIND THE WHEEL!