I have spent an insane amount of time commuting... like most people in any country where people consistently work or consistently take care of another person. I have pretty much done everything at some point except take a helicopter. I don't fear them, I just haven't been important enough to need to be on one yet. I thoroughly enjoy flying and it is my favorite form of transportation, but one doesn't take a jet on a daily basis to drop the kid to the babysitter... and one shouldn't for the sake of everyone living on the planet. I do, however, constantly have to drive my car. Most days here in Hampton Roads, VA it is TERRIFYING.
Some days I wonder if I am the only person who still thinks driving is literally having someone's life in your hands. It isn't only the people who are riding with you that you are responsible to protect, but also the millions of strangers around you that also need to get somewhere safely. When research that indicates that a person is far more like to pass away due to a car crash than a plane crash, I completely believe it.
I pass a car crash or see one on the news here every single day. When I would see state police cars on the side of the road, I used to feel anxious about my speed even if I was well within reasonable limitations. Over the past two years, the anxiety about my speed when I see police cars has become anxiety about whether everyone will make it back home.
Only once in my life have I been in an auto accident involving another driver that involved threat. My four month old daughter was in the Equinox with me when we started crossing the intersection on our green light. Another driver was distracted and didn't realize he had a red light, and he plowed into us. Our truck spun completely into the opposite direction. Our friend that we were on our way to visit for Christmas dinner heard the crash from her apartment complex across the street and arrived to find the glass and auto parts from my truck all over the road.
A Samaritan (whom I never had a chance to get a name) climbed through the back window and was able to remove my child from her car seat which, thankfully, had encased her from the glass and kept her locked in during the impact. It was Baby Trend brand if anyone is wondering about how safe they are.
That day and several others traumatized me into occasional flashbacks while I'm driving on the road. I have come to realize that if you plan to make it back home or wherever you are going, you have to count on other people not paying attention or sometimes not even caring about your safety while you are traveling. Sometimes it may not be intentional. I know there have been times where I couldn't see a car beside me and almost merged over or almost pulled out of a parking space just as another car started to whiz by.
I have had many other near misses where I thanked God for my state of being alert to react in time to another driver's behavior in avoiding another round of therapy, loss of my car, or possible loss of someone's life. Read on for some things that you may not have thought about that may possibly help you not to end up in jail, severely injured, or severely injuring someone else:
Increase that following distance. I see it all the time... I'm driving down the interstate at over 60 miles an hour. A car rushes past me in the next lane only to have to slow down due to a car ahead. Only they don't just slow down. They are almost bumper to bumper with another driver who is already safely over the speed limit.
I start praying the front car doesn't need to slam on their breaks or make a sudden move to avoid something in the road because what will happen next is we will likely all end up in a crash and probably several all of the cars behind us who cannot stop in time. DO NOT be that driver that causes the interstate to shut down or at worst, cause a death or permanent injury because you thought it was cool to attempt to pressure another driver to drive faster or switch lanes by driving too close.
Master merging. Hampton Roads is notorious for interstate ramps that invite cars getting on into the same lane as cars getting off. What is the first thing that happens? Most drivers on either side don't want to to let any other drivers get over. What happens after that? Temporary stand-still while lanes get blocked and no one can move until the person in the very front does. What keeps traffic moving smooth and accident free?
What I call the Alternating Flow method. For each driver that merges on, the next driver merges off. Kindergarten concept of taking turns! I have noticed on my commutes that when doing this, almost no one has to stop and when they do, it is for a couple seconds for Car 1 to clear and Car 2 to keep flowing forward.
Another option is to move over as soon as it is safe to do so when you are already on the straight path and another driver needs to enter the roadway. Why invite the possibility of both cars needing to slow down in order to figure out who is going to speed up in order to avoid a crash? When it becomes evident that no one owns the road and we are all trying to get somewhere, we get there much faster and safer when applying reason.
How about those turn signals? Okay, we get it. Some of you like to show off in your fast cars that only you care about when you are on the road. Some of you may have never fully learned the sense of direction for right and left, but GPS apps should have fixed that by now. People who weave in and out of lanes without signalling are not cool, efficient, or Vin Diesel. They are dangerous. The number of times I have been in a car and almost been sideswiped by some jerk who didn't signal but suddenly changes direction is too scary to add up. Suppose someone didn't catch you in their mirror when you abruptly pull up beside them just as they were about to merge?
How many accidents could be avoided if people would stop jumping in front of another car just to almost stop and pull into a parking lot with no signal given? Drivers have to stop assuming that other drivers always see them and are not distracted. The driver behind you or the driver in front of you may not have enough time to react even if they do! Who wants to spend money paying unnecessary deductibles and increased insurance premiums because some people believe they are Professor X to communicate their intentions to other drivers by mind control?
Driving too slow is another kind of reckless. The concept of going "with the flow of traffic" is popular for a reason. So is the importance of depth perception. Have you ever been driving down the road, chilling smooth, minding your own business when another driver decides to jump in front of you from a side road instead of just letting you pass? Me too. It's frustrating when they could have merged into a different lane altogether or you were the last car they needed to wait for. Better to wait to turn onto a street after a car passes you if you are not sure you have enough time to safely do so. It isn't worth being rear-ended or rear-ending someone else when another five seconds would make a difference.
The other problem with being too slow? Rush hour traffic or traffic jams, meaning don't be the weirdo holding up all the other drivers from getting where they need to go. Use a safe following distance of 1 to 2 cars. Being that person that has 5-6 cars between and driving below the speed limit therefore preventing other drivers from getting around you is a jerk move. There is no need to be nosy while passing an accident. Scoot up at the intersection so that other cars can merge into the turn lanes they need to use. It sucks missing a green arrow because a car in front of you leaves too much of a gap between the next car.
Owning a car comes with a huge cost. The insurance and maintenance payments will never go away. Having to lawyer up and wait months to years for a settlement or reimbursement due to negligence in an accident is very stressful and financially draining. Even if you do not care about the wellbeing of others, consider your own financial future and apply these tips to your daily commute to minimize anxiety and anger while driving. Did I leave anything off the list of things drivers do that cause commuting anxiety or do you feel that some of the things I question are justifiable?