Daze of My Life: Driving to survive, barely
Daze of My Life
Driving to survive, barely
I don't want this column to come across as if I wrote the book on driver etiquette, which I most definitely have not but, the behavior of some of the drivers with whom I've been sharing the road these last few months has so deteriorated that I'm almost afraid to turn on my car's ignition let alone get on the road and even attempt to drive responsibly.
My experiences of late have me believing that, unless I take drastic action and make my car's presence felt--drive more aggressively; drive offensively, not defensively and not drive gently, in Maryland--my life will do more than pass before my eyes; it will end, or at last end as I've come to know and appreciate it. It's as if some of these drivers have absolutely no consideration, or awareness or concern, of a vehicle/driver in front of them. Let me try to explain a few of the circumstances under which I have barely escaped meeting these drivers by accident.
While driving at speed in the middle lane--on a state road, on an interstate, on the beltway, etc.--in Maryland or Virginia, blinking my indicator light to move into the adjacent left or right lane indicating my desire/need to move over, seems more to be an incentive for the cars behind me to speed up rather than slow down. (And I'm not describing cars that are only one length behind, either.)
Likewise when driving on the same multi-jurisdictional-type roads; when there's a lane shift/new traffic pattern ahead; when there's a merge because of it; when there's orange traffic cones organizing it, and when there's a loss of a lane because of it, I see more cars behind me accelerating and passing me than I see them exercising restraint. (And no, I'm not driving under the speed limit, either.) It's as if the appearance of these orange cones--or black directional arrows on white or gold signs--motivates these drivers to pedal to the metal instead of slowing to keep on going, safely.
While driving the speed limit, 65 mph, on Interstate 95 in Maryland, in the far right lane no less, I noticed the driver behind me fidgeting behind her wheel; looking right, looking left, looking in her mirrors, etc., apparently not happy having to drive the speed limit behind me. Sure enough, she passed me on my right--in the breakdown lane! Fortunately I saw it coming so I'm still here to write about it.
And lastly, exiting my local gas station, needing to go right to left, westbound, crossing an eastbound oncoming lane; tricky certainly, but no laws or street signs preventing it. (Entering a station has been difficult enough of late but, in this example, leaving was the problem.)
Fifty yards to my left, in the direction to which I was heading was an intersection, with a light and a left turn-only arrow, directing northbound and southbound traffic feeding into the eastbound/westbound flow. In addition, this gas station sells comparatively inexpensive gasoline, along with various other amenities in its convenience store so, the entry and exit is extremely busy. And lastly, after this light, in the direction in which I'm traveling, the road merges from three lanes to one. It's organized chaos and it's into this maelstrom of activity that I must enter so, I'm not in a hurry.
As I'm idling in the driveway, blinking and waiting to turn left, an SUV pulls alongside the right side of my car, in a position not exactly set up for two lane lefts, hesitates a moment and then, aggressively cuts in front of me going right to left. I could have been killed. I was so mad, if I had a gun, I might have thrown it at him.
I admit, I'm scared to be in my car; certainly for what could happen to me and my family but also, for what I might do in retaliation the next time some other driver puts my life in their hands. I may not have started it, but I'd sure like to finish it.
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.