Driving while Dumb

I’m wondering if I’m the only person who believes that people should have to pass IQ and personality tests before being given a driver’s license.

I “commuted” 180 miles round trip 2 days a week for 5 years, and found that my faith in humanity was drastically undermined by the behavior I witnessed on the road. People behave in such a way as they never would if waiting their turn in line or dealing with someone face to face. Couple that with a generalized lack of attention, and the road is a dangerous place to be indeed.

For example, today, on my 9-mile drive from work to home:

1. Driver #1 sits in the lane for the duration of the green left-turn arrow, then zips out at the last second and dives into the far right lane, turning right on a red light without stopping first (apparently, since he/she had stopped at a green light, she/he was then granted one go-at-a-red-light pass).

2. Driver #2 proceeds down busy 3-lane road at ~ 7 mph under the speed limit, then turns on her left turn signal, pulls into the right (parking) lane, and turns right.

3. Driver #3 merges onto the highway at a blistering 37 miles per hour.

4. Driver #4 changes lanes, from the right to a left, in the middle of an intersection, proceeds in the left lane ~13 mph under the speed limit for approximately 1/2 of a mile, and then goes back into the right lane to turn right (this is not the same as driver #2, alas).

What is wrong with these people?

Nobody knows how to merge, people either don’t use their turn signals or use them too late to be of any use to anyone, most people seem to be driving cars without cruise control and are completely unable to maintain a consistent speed on the highway, and way too many people cross center lines at random or hug one line or another, seeming to indicate an intention to change into a different lane, but failing to actually do so.

Many of these drivers are talking on their cell phones, and apparently have forgotten that a) they are driving a car, and/or b) they are not the only person on the road. Besides DWD (Driving While Dumb) we have DWD2 (Driving While Distracted), DWoCP (Driving while on a Cell Phone), DWT (Driving While Texting), DWO (Driving While Old) and DWY&C (Driving While Young and Clueless).

A few weeks ago a man driving a large pickup, and pulling a VERY long trailer, simply merged onto the highway and into my lane without looking at me once. If I had not been able to get into the left lane instantly he would have “taken me out.” He never noticed — he was talking on a cell phone, which he was holding up to his left ear, the result of which a) he couldn’t see me and b) he didn’t notice and/or c) he didn’t care.

Various surveys show 4 out of 10 accidents being caused by people driving while on a cell phone or texting and compares the reactions of 20-year-olds while on a cell phone to those of 70-year-olds in general. Other surveys show that driving while on a cell phone is more dangerous than driving drunk and include using a hands-free phone in these statistics, some studies showing that these are even MORE dangerous.

In general people seem to be getting away with worse and worse driving abilities and habits, although maybe this is just my opnion.

In any case, it would be good for everyone if people drove smarter and stopped treating their car like a living room or a phone booth. Remember:  Your primary job is to a) drive your car safely and b) be considerate of everyone else on the road. If you can’t do those two things, please stay home, or at the very least, stay out of the driver’s seat.

Think of it as your Christmas gift to the world.

6 Responses to “Driving while Dumb”

  1. November 30, 2010 at 1:44 am

    Don’t know what comment to make, except I rage about this all the time. Your examples are ones I often see.

    I was driving to a friend’s apartment this evening (around 5:30), in a pretty dense urban area, and the guy in front of me was driving maybe 20 mph (it’s 25 mph and yes, that 5 mph makes a difference to me). The traffic was not heavy, no one was in front of him holding him up, he just chose to drive that slowly. He was neither elderly nor young, just meandering at his own pace pretty much oblivious that there was anyone in back of him. We wer on a one lane street with a lane of parking. At an intersection with a green light he just stopped — and I realized he was going to turn left. No signal, of course. It’s tough to go around someone when they do that, but thankfully I had stayed back far enough that I was able to maneuver around him.

    Another example: there are two stop signs near my house where the majority of people don’t bother to stop. I don’t know why. One in particular merges into 3 different roads (it’s a weird intersection) but the people at the stop sign routinely drive out into the intersection regardless of whether there is traffic or not. I have figured out many who get to the stop sign seem to think once they pause for 1.5 seconds, it’s their turn to go, regardless of the fact that they are at a full stop sign, and the other two streets have (a) a yield sign and (b) no sign at all. I have honked at folks while coming up one of the other streets when they have almost hit me, and almost every time they yell or honk or shoot the finger, etc. Because obviously I failed to intuit their intentions, therefore they are not to be blamed.

    I never talk on my cell phone while driving. I often listen to music, but if I have to really pay attention (tolls, exits, finding a new place, heavy traffic), usually turn the music down or off in order to fully concentrate. I don’t understand why people think they can drive and talk on the cell phone simultaneously — when other people talk to me in the car while I’m driving I find it distracting, and I often ask people not to talk if there is anything tricky going on. Better safe than sorry.

    One point I’d like to make about cell phones and cars — in New Jersey at least it’s supposedly illegal to talk on your hand-held cell while driving a car, yet I see people doing this constantly. Where are the police? Wouldn’t this be an easy ticket to write? If I can see it can’t they? And why don’t they post cars at the two stop signs near me and just write tickets all day? They could make a bundle.

    There is an intersection at the bottom of my street at a light where the left lane can go left or straight, and the right lane is clearly marked as right turn only. CLEARLY MARKED with a right turn arrow AND a sign (that says “Right Turn Only”). But people constantly try to go straight out of the right turn lane. You can’t do it easily, because across the intersection it narrows to a one-way, one driving lane and a parking lane street, so the people in the RIGHT TURN ONLY lane really have no where to go if they try to go straight (unless they want to park behind the last car, but usually the parking lane is full). I’d estimate about 75% of the people who get into that lane try to go straight. It’s a local road and surely most of the people who are in that lane know it’s right turn only, but instead of making the turn and going around, they just try to jam into the left lane. Yes, I know people get confused and make mistakes, but surely not this high of a percentage, since it’s mostly local drivers.

    Not only do they try to merge, but most of them give you the finger, honk, yell, etc., if you don’t let them in. Why should I? I’m in the correct lane. It’s a short light. The light beyond it is even shorter and if you let anyone cut in front of you invariably you get stuck at the second light. Why do they expect to be let in when they’re clearly wrong? Couldn’t they at least be nice and wait, wave, be polite? That’s rarely the case, in my experience.

    This is a huge pet peeve of mine and I could go on and on, but will stop and say that I am in agreement with you, and do not know how to solve the problem. People in my area clearly disregard signs, so even if there were more laws I don’t see that people would adhere to them. More police posted at more intersections would be good, but in my city they are cutting back on police and firefighters, so I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon.

  2. November 30, 2010 at 2:37 am

    This brought to mind a rant I posted a few years ago:

    The fine for using a mobile phone whilst driving is now £60 with three points. I believe this is right but there a few other activities that should also be discouraged whilst driving: searching for that favourite CD; arguing with your partner over their map reading, looking for wine gums; doing one’s make-up; reading directions; getting angry with John Prescott; lighting a cigarette. Someone once said: we all believe that we are good drivers and lovers. Therefore we do not believe that these activities affect our ability to drive. Personally I wouldn’t consider doing any of these whilst making love!

  3. November 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I understand your frustration. The week before Thanksgiving we went to my parents house, a two hour drive. Half on the interstate half on back roads. There is no winning. As we were driving down one back road where the speed limit is 55 I think a 200 year old man slowly pulls out of a driveway about 3 car lengths in front of us then drives into the next driveway about 2 car lengths away! If there had been a car in the opposite lane we would have slammed into him! My daughter was filming the fall foilage (not driving),so glad she stopped just then and didn’t get my reaction on video. It wasn’t very giving, thanks or forgiving. Then on the way home in a very small town another older man pulled out literally right in front of us. I would say we were going about 10 miles an hour! We had just turned a corner. How could he not have seen us? My dad says that doctors write notes for older patients to continue driving all the time, without even seeing them! It’s crazy.

    • November 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm

      I used to have a landlord who lived below me and he should not have been driving. He routinely parked in front of the house, took off and sped right through the stop sign about 5 houses down the street! I doubt he ever saw it and it probably wasn’t there when he built the house. I always wondered why he never hit anyone.

      In any case, his son finally came and got him and took his driver’s license away. They also took him away and sold the house, so I had to find other digs.

  4. December 2, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    We have a new law about texting while driving…not that anyone stopped, even with a $250 fine hanging over them! And, they can lose their license…keep up the good word! Ta, wordbone.wordpress.com

  5. 6 jatimlex
    December 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    As an over the road truck driver you should see the stupid stuff I see, if you read my blog about the oversize load I brought back fro Folsom PA, (Near Philadelphia):
    and look at the picture of the load why would you drive right at that coming down the road toward you. The last part of my trip had quit a few tight curves in it that required that I drive right down the center of a two lane road, my escort was ahead with the yellow flashing lights and the sign that says oversize load. He was trying to stop traffic from coming until I cleared the curves by parking his escort vehicle in the middle of the road. Well someone went around him and in short order met me. He immediately went for the ditch, kind of like the Mercedes SUV in my blog. Don’t get me started on the cell phone thing. Its already illegal for commercial vehicle operators to not use hands free nationally. The fed’s can force this on us and not on regular drivers because commercial transportation has federal oversight. I’m all for hands free regulations, I just wish the States would follow suite.
    Another dumb things people do is forget where the accelerator is on the on ramp to a freeway, if one feels that they need to jump in front of a big truck to get on the freeway then friggin use the accelerator, we cant stop on a dime. Its take a semi approximately 250 feet to stop on clear dry roads doing 55, its the whole inertia thing. There are equal amount of stupid semi drivers out there due to the large turnover and lack of training required to get a CDL.

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