Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Good" drivers versus "good drivers"

So I'm driving in to work today, down roads with which I am all too familiar. You come down the hill to the main drag through town, stop and start as people turn in and out of parking lots: Shoney's, Krogers, the mall. Once past the McDonalds, the road opens up a bit, and you're going 50 by the time you reach the double-laned right turn. A "good" driver would slow, take the broad, sweeping corner at maybe 30mph, but not me. I've not let off the accelerator, nor have I moved into the inside right turn lane because it's imperceptibly shorter. I blaze past the entrance to Y-12, crest the ridge still going 50, and take the right turn, more of a ramp than a normal intersection, onto the road that leads into the lab. This right turn should only be driven above 45mph, unless it's pouring rain. Or snowing, which never happens.
After the guard gate, the two lane road opens up to a long, relatively straight stretch, down the middle of the valley in which the lab resides. The speed limit is 55, but it's the perfect road for 80. Without a second thought, I check the left lane, flip my headlights on, and pass cars ahead of me who aren't going at least 65. Sometimes two or three at a time. By mid-morning, no one is on the way out of the lab, so there is hardly any oncoming traffic.

So: speeding, cornering quickly, passing several cars at once. Bad driver? Or good driver?

Americans seem to have lost the art of driving. We've become lax; we chat on our cell phones or twiddle with the radio knob or drink and get behind the wheel, and we crash and injure or kill one another. What if we were all stunt drivers? What if we all had the necessary skill to drive 85mph down twisting country road, make a handbrake turn, or parallel park into a space the size of a schnauzer? No, we (and our insurance system) desire "good" drivers, people who drive like they handle raw chicken, people who won't corner at 50mph because they're afraid to do so. We don't want "good drivers," people who are capable and skilled and can maneuver a car like an extension of their body. Instead of countering the idiocy of today's drivers with a demand for skill, we merely demand idiocy-but-wearing-a-helmet.
Driving is a privilege, not a right. Driving is a skill, not a chore. People should be "good drivers," not "good" drivers.

2 comments:

  1. You are preaching to the chior here. Yes, I do agree with you on this. It does take skill to drive and 100% concertation on the driver's part. But not everyone is driving with skill. Cell phones in hand as well as makeup, food and dealing with screaming kids do take away the attention on driving. That drives me nuts. I have to walk with skill in order to advoid being hit. So ends my part of the rant.

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  2. Well said! A slow erratic driver, with a dislike of proper signaling, is vastly more dangerous that someone driving over the speed limit, especially on low-hazard roads like BV. I was astounded when I first came to Konxville and found the limit on the interstate was 55 and it was a 45 limit on KP! A factor of two between the two would be far more appropriate.
    Also, I've long pointed out that the most dangerous thing for me is a long relatively straight road, with nothing to keep my interest. The more 'safe' and uniform we make the driving environment, the lighter our typical attention will be.

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