Monday, November 19, 2012

Driving Rant

Every once in a while I find myself ranting about the way other people drive. I've been doing that again of late so it seems like a good time to get a few gripes off my chest.

Today is a prime example: It’s been raining out pretty much since seven this morning. In Ohio it is a law that when windshield wipers are needed, one should also have their head lights on. Also, it is law to have ones lights on between sunrise and sunset. [From the Ohio Digest of Motor Laws, page 64: Lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise and during any periods of rain, snow, fog or other unfavorable atmospheric conditions regardless of the time of day. Lights also need to be used at any time when natural light conditions do not make it possible to clearly see objects 1,000 feet ahead. Lights must be used 
whenever windshield wipers are used.]

Even though both of these two conditions were in effect I noticed several people with no lights on at all. This seems to happen all the time around here and I always wonder why this is. I will be the first to admit that sometimes headlights really don’t help me to see much better… but there is no doubt that it helps others to see me! And I think that’s the point. Headlights help drivers see other vehicles - plain and simple.
I've heard people make arguments that one can save fuel by not turning on one’s headlights. This is technically true of course, because it takes energy to power lights and we all know that power is not free. However the amount of fuel saved by not running one’s headlights is so small, even over a years’ time, that it is almost immeasurable.  In fact, one jackrabbit start will erase any savings one might have gotten from driving sans lights. It is much more effective to drive smoothly. Do not race from one stoplight or intersection only to stop at the next for example.  Regularly coasting up to a red light or stop sign helps a bunch.

Besides, would you want someone to pull out in front of you because they didn't see you because you were trying to save a buck on gas? Sure, it most likely will still be their fault, failure to yield and all that, but filling out accident reports is not a fun way to spend your commute … and should someone die, that someone’s death will haunt you the rest of your life. If you also happen to be stupid enough to go without wearing your seat belt, the person that dies could be you (or your spouse or your child…)

Another thing I've had to deal with lately is the person – probably a gas saver again – who accelerates so slowly up a freeway on ramp that they are not yet matching the speed of traffic when the merge lane runs out. This will screw people up in two ways. 

First, if you happen to be the unlucky one entering the highway at rush hour behind someone like this you will find yourself on their bumper with no further place to go, and no way to merge correctly into traffic. Now you are stuck trying to find a spot in the right lane that will accommodate two cars, and at that, the traffic in that lane is going to have to adjust their speed or change lanes. 

Of course if you are part of the traffic on the freeway that is the other way you get screwed. You will have to slow down (and hope the person behind you notices) to not hit the driver merging on at a much slower speed. Traffic will pile up in the right lane and due to the slow and go effect this causes, all those people on the freeway will use more gas than if they were able to continue at a steady pace. 

Along the same lines as that is the person who plants themselves in the left freeway lane going the speed limit – if the rest of us are lucky! I don’t know if they think they are “enforcing” the limit, are afraid to go faster themselves, or are merely clueless, but they are causing needless congestion and provoking risky and/or angry behavior from other motorists. The left lane is for passing and is usually traveling above the speed limit. If you need to pass, accelerate to the speed that lane is traveling, and get back over as soon as you are safely able to. When traffic is heavy, drivers may stay in the left lane, as long as they are going with the flow of traffic and not setting a slower pace for themselves and everyone stuck behind them. Law enforcement spokespersons themselves have said they would rather the left lane travel above the limit than have someone blocking the free flow of traffic by planting themselves there. 

So if you are trying to save gas by driving in one or more of the ways I just described, you are effectively causing the rest of us to use a lot more fuel by disrupting the smooth flow of traffic. If your real goal is to help the country use less gas, you are doing it wrong.

Though I suspect the real reason people drive this way is simply to save themselves a buck, the rest of us be damned.

And that is the saddest part of all.