Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stupid Gray Honda

This morning it was raining. Many people were driving more cautiously than usual but not the gray Honda behind me. She must have been on my tail for about 8-10 miles (my whole commute is 12 miles). After following me for that distance, we are coming to the end of the last big street, one lane each way, 30 m.p.h. speed limit, double yellow line, wet road. At that moment she decides to pass me just in time to get behind 10 cars waiting at the stop sign at the end of the street. Once we turn left on that street, the road becomes two lanes in about a quarter of a mile. That is, if she had waited 1/4 mile, she would have been able to pass me safely and easily. Not that it really mattered. She got a little bit ahead of me only to be stopped by a train just past the intersection where I turned off.

I have to stop myself from secretly hoping that idiots like this get into an accident from their dangerous driving, but I am happy to revel in their getting stuck at a train crossing and gaining nothing from their stupidity.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flashed by Pedestrians

I haven't blogged much lately because it has been the same ol' same ol' of some tailgaters and some following safely. Today, something new happened. I was driving down a 30 m.p.h. road and two pedestrians were on the sidewalk with there hands in their pockets (it was about 50 degrees F this morning) and they were waving one of their hands while in the pocket at the passing drivers. It wasn't completely clear what they were doing, but I was guessing that they were warning of a speed trap (not that I had anything to worry about). Sure enough, a few hundred feet down the road was a police car. I've never been warned by a pedestrian; usually, it's done by cars flashing their lights.

Speaking of cars flashing their lights, I was reading something online the other day about whether or not it was ethical to warn people of speed traps (apparently, it is legal, but is it ethical). I was surprised by the large number of comments that suggested that it was not ethical. I would think that most drivers (a) do it when they get the chance, and (b) have no problem with the practice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I was driving on a 30 m.p.h. road this morning at my usual speed (somewhere between 31 and 33), and the car behind me actually flashed his lights at me the way you do when someone is in the left lane on a highway, and you want him to get over to a slower lane. The problem is that there was no other lane. I'm not quite sure what he expected. This is the first time someone has ever flashed me on a one-lane road.

Friday, October 1, 2010

No Cop This Time

A couple of weeks ago I was passed right in front of a police officer, and justice was served. It happened again this morning but no police officer this time. I was driving down my 40 m.p.h. road on the way to work and a Jeep (I've seen this one before). She was driving very close and then crossed the double-yellow line to pass me. But this time a different kind of justice was served. By the time I turned off, she was only about 30 feet ahead of me tailgating someone else. Her dangerous (especially on the wet roads from yesterday's big rain) and illegal maneuver bought her a total of 0 seconds of time saved (if she were still behind me, she would have gotten to exactly the same spot within seconds of my turning off).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mercedes Losing Its Luster

I have blogged about how nice Mercedes drivers seem to be. Well, today it was raining, and a silver Mercedes SUV sat on my tail for over half my drive. Because of the rain, this was actually a little scary. I was amazed how someone could stay so close for so long in very slick conditions.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Don't Stereotype

I turned onto a road, and a giant maroon Ford SUV turned behind me. I was sure I was in for a long ride of tailgating (I guess I've come to expect that from big SUVs, and this was as big as they come). But the Ford never got close. I was pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Did He Thank Me?

I was driving to work this morning, and a black pick-up truck came speeding up behind me. It wasn't super-fast, and he never got super-close, but he was definitely going several miles per hour above the speed limit. My guess is that he was probably annoyed (although I didn't see the tell-tale signs of hand waving or other gesturing), but I wonder if he was thanking me when we got to the speed trap. Chances were pretty good that he would have gotten a ticket if he didn't come up behind me and was able to continue at the speed he was going.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I was just driving right where I had my accident, and a car came speeding up behind me and sat on my tail. As the road curved and dipped (source of accident), I applied the break to keep from speeding up (from the downward grade of the road). The car decided to take the opportunity to pass me.

You know those times when you say to yourself, "I wish there was a police car there to give that guy a ticket." Well, this time there was! The officer pulled the car over (I even slowed down to make sure the officer could get in front of me as he was pulling out). As I headed by, the officer flagged me down and asked me to confirm that the guy had passed me and that there was a double line (no passing zone). He then spoke to the other guy and came back to my car. He asked me if I had a radar detector, and I said no. He said the other guy wanted to know why I was going so slowly. I said that I wasn't; I was going the speed limit and explained about my accident 11 months ago and how I now go the speed limit, especially on this road.

It kind of makes me want to do this more often. Wait, I do. It's just that there isn't always a police officer when you want one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Change of Temperament

I have been driving the speed limit (more or less) for about ten months. It's been a struggle, but I feel like I am finally getting more comfortable sticking to the speed limit with people on my tail. I still get anxious when someone comes up right behind me, but I no longer have a desire to speed up. If I am in the right lane or the only lane, it is right, and it is my right, to drive the speed limit. The only time I feel I should go faster is when I am sitting in the left lane. I don't do this intentionally, but sometimes I am making a left turn or actually have to pass someone or enter a road from the left. But under normal driving conditions, I have no interest in speeding up and sitting on my tail, flashing your lights, honking your horn, or gesturing me will not convince me to go faster.

Friday, July 30, 2010

No Break with a Bike

I took my car in for an oil change this morning. I knew it would be a long wait so brought my bike to bike to my office a mile and a half away. I had to drive to my office first to drop off some stuff so I took my usual route. Foolishly, I thought that having a bike on the back of my car would signal people to back off. It wasn't so. Three separate people rode my bike-laden tail. The last was as close as any tailgater ever is.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tag-Team Tailgating

This morning, about half-way to work, a woman in a white Toyota minivan came speeding up behind me and glued herself to my tail. After about 5 minutes of this, she whizzed past me, crossing the double-yellow line. This is actually one spot where a dashed line might have worked because visibility was pretty good. As soon as she got by, an exasperated many in a gray Nissan sedan took up the cause and glued himself to my tail. He displayed the typical tailgating behavior with the exasperated expression, the hands in the air with the "Come on and speed up!" gesture, etc. He followed me most of the rest of the way to work. I felt like the woman in the minivan passed me and said to him, "Tag, you're it."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tailgated by Propane

This morning, I was tailgated by a propane truck. At first, it doesn't seem scarier than most tailgating, but the likelihood of a worst case scenario seemed so incredibly high. Is there such as thing as a minor accident with a propane truck?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Don't Talk with Your Hands

I was driving home this afternoon followed by another yo-yo tailgater. This time I could tell why she was a yo-yo: she had a cell phone in one hand, and she was talking with her other hand. Every couple of seconds, she took her free hand off the steering wheel to gesture to the person on the phone. She was so distracted that I watched as she nearly missed her exit and had to cut across the wide area between the highway and the exit area to get to the exit at the last second.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy Truck

I'm driving on my 40 m.p.h. road with a black Toyota SUV on my tail. I rarely have too much trouble on that road because the limit is 40, but it seems like it could be less. Then, I turn onto my 30 m.p.h stretch and the lady in the SUV turns as well. Now, I know I'm in for some serious tailgating. But, wait, what's that up ahead? It's a big dump truck averaging 25-28. I just get a big smile on my face because now I don't have to worry about annoying the lady in the SUV. It's not my fault; I can't go any faster.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Something Nice

Usually, I talk about all the idiots who follow too close and then flip me off for driving the speed limit, but today I'll mention someone nice. Last night on my way home, I was stuck in the right lane with my left turn coming up soon. There was actually a car in the left lane going slower than the speed limit (and a car in the right lane only going slightly faster) so the cars were lined up behind it. I was trying to find an opening to get over and slowing down to try to let the cars on the left get by, but nothing worked. Finally, I turned on my blinker without any hope, and big truck flashed his lights and let me in. It was a wonderful gesture and very much appreciated. It was a great reminder to be nice and drive calmly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Classic Tailgater - Allergic to the Middle Lane

I usually don't have too much trouble on the highway because people can always go by (I don't spend time in the left lane). This morning, I was on a 3-lane highway in the right lane. A black Jeep pulled up behind me very close about at least a mile before my exit (and what turned out to be his). He had all the classic tailgating signs (aside from being very close): the hands thrown up in exasperation, the shaking head, the talking to himself, the drifting a little onto the shoulder as if he was going to pass on right. The funny thing is that there was very little traffic. He had plenty of time to pass on the left and get back over long before the exit. The exit lane was very small, and I thought he was going to pass me as I was trying to get off. Then, when we finally got off the highway, he zipped by. I didn't look, but I'm betting he gave me the finger as he went by.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yo-Yo Tailgating

I hate being followed by a yo-yo. It's bad enough when someone is sitting on my tail, but I think it is worse when someone is constantly getting closer and farther away. This happened to me this morning. When someone is constantly close, I feel like they have to be hyper-vigilant to stay that close without hitting me. With the yo-yo, I get the feeling that the person is just not paying attention, speeding up and then slowing down again when the car gets really close, and could rear-end me at any time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cautious Caravaning

Yesterday, my family went to Lancaster, PA (an hour and a half away) to our annual trip to the Demuth Garden Tour. My in-laws came as well. We were in two cars. For most of the drive up, I was in front with my brother-in-law driving behind me. When we arrived, my father-in-law said to me, "You are a cautious driver." I said I was simply driving the speed limit.

On the way back, we didn't stick together. My brother-in-law shot out ahead of me. We were meeting at a restaurant near our homes. About 10 minutes before we arrived, I told my wife to expect a call on her cell phone any second to let us know that the other car had arrived at the restaurant. The call came...right as we were pulling into the parking lot. For all my "cautious" driving, we still arrived at the restaurant about a minute apart.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Corporate Tailgating

Today, for the last couple of miles of my trip to work, I was tailgated by a van from Butler Mobility. Before he started tailgating me, he was tailgating the person behind me, who was keeping a safe following distance from me. I was hoping I would be able to catch one of those "How's my driving" stickers, but I didn't see one when he finally went by.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stupid Human Tricks

On my way to work this morning, a pick-up truck pulled up behind me on my longest 30 m.p.h. stretch. He was very close for a couple of blocks, and then, in a no-passing zone, he zipped by me. He must have gotten up to 60 (I suppose he had to in order to get by before the oncoming traffic came). Then, I had to laugh. As soon as he got by me, he had to slow down to stop behind a line of cars stopped at a red light, and I pulled up right behind him. When the light turned green, he turned right, and I went straight. I figure the chance of dying from passing in the no-passing zone must be about 5 percent, which is comparable to the number of seconds (about 5 seconds) he saved by passing me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Back to the Grind

I was off all last week preparing for my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I'm back to the grind today and was tailgated most of the way to work by a woman in a gray Toyota SUV.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good Lesson for your Kid

Last night on my way home, I was driving on the big 30 m.p.h. stretch, and a big black Tahoe was behind me. I could tell it wanted to get by as it kept swerving to the left and right as if looking for an opening. There is no passing on this stretch as it is too narrow and too curvy to see far enough ahead. But there are some spots with wide shoulders, and, sure enough, the Tahoe went by me on the shoulder on the right. This has happened before so I wasn't shocked (although it is still surprising). What did shock me was that there was a kid in the front seat. I was thinking it is one thing to do something stupid and dangerous by yourself and quite another to do it in front of your kid. What a great lesson for the the kid.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm in a hurry

The past few days I've noticed that I've been in a hurry when driving. I always seem to be late to where I'm going. The temptation is there for me to drive faster in those occasions (and I can't say that I have never succumbed to the temptation). But this got me thinking. I'm not really sure if driving close to the speed limit under normal circumstances is really much safer. It's got to be a little safer, but I find it hard to believe that it is much safer to go 32 rather than 37 (or even 40) in most of the 30 zones, especially since almost everyone else is doing it.

However, it is clear to me that no matter how fast I go, it is much safer to not be in a hurry. I still plan to continue my close-to-speed-limit driving in normal circumstances, but I have to redouble my efforts to not rush. That might involve leaving earlier or just trying not to worry that I'm a bit late and give in to the fact that once I'm in the car, it will take as long as it takes.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are you yawning at me?

Today's odd observation: a Buick was tailgating me almost entire way home. Finally, a mile from house, we came to an intersection with, and he pulled up next to me in the right turn lane. As I looked to the right to check for traffic, he was looking at me and yawning with a giant yawn. Was he getting sleepy from driving so slowly? Was he trying to tell me something? Or was he just tired from a long day at work? Whatever it was, it looked very strange.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Cross to Bear?

Today, I was tailgated much of the way to work by a woman with a big cross hanging from her rearview mirror. I found it oddly amusing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Foggy Day Ramblings

Today I don't want to talk about the guy in the black Lexus who tailgated me most of the way to work (and then when he passed me got stack in the other lane as I drove by). Instead, I want to talk about other driving annoyances. It is very foggy this morning, and I am surprised at how many cars are driving without their lights on. As I watched cars coming in the other direction, I noticed how big a difference it made; I could see the cars with lights coming long before I could see the ones without lights. Given that there are virtually no negative consequences to driving with the lights on, I can't understand why people just don't do it. By the way, in case you think the fog's not dangerous, it was pretty obvious that it is from listening to the morning traffic report: far more accidents than usual.

That got me thinking about what to do when traffic lights aren't working...and this is more related to tailgating. Everyone should know that if you come to a traffic light that is not working, you are supposed to treat it like a four-way stop. But no one ever does. This reminds me of driving the speed limit because if you do stop at a broken traffic light, you get the same dirty looks and gestures that I get when driving the speed limit. And given that no one else is doing it, it is not clear whether it is safer to follow the rules or not.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Penn Jillette Drives 55 and Likes Stupid

This article by Penn Jillette (from Penn and Teller) caught my eye and fits here because he says, "My little Mini doesn't go way fast, but even in drive-fast-take-chances Nevada I rarely go faster than 55 miles per hour." He also lays out an interesting argument why freedom and stupid go together.

Three-Car Pileup

I wasn't in a three-car pileup, but I was imagining it last week as a car was tailgating me, and the car behind him was tailgating him. I imagined that if I had to stop suddenly for any reason, two cars would have plowed into me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Serial Tailgaters

Last week I was driving on the highway, and I noticed a common phenomenon: serial tailgaters. I have come to expect a little tailgating (less on the highway than the back roads because no one wants to go 30), but I realized it's not just me. At least a couple of times, I would be driving along in the right lane going the speed limit, and a car would pull up right behind me. The traffic in the other lanes would be moving along at a much faster pace (probably 5-10 m.p.h. more in the middle lane and another 5-10 more in the left lane). After about 30 seconds, the tailgater behind me would make his way over into the next lane...and sit right on the tail of someone going 5-10 m.p.h. faster. Then, after another 30 seconds, the tailgater would make his way to the left lane and sit right on the tail of someone going another 5-10 m.p.h. faster.

I don't like it, but I can understand someone tailgating a slow-poke like me (although it's pretty rude when I'm in the right lane and not below the speed limit), but on more than one occasion I've seen these serial tailgaters simply tailgating whoever is in front of them even if they're going more than 70 in a 50 zone.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I'm gonna buy me a big yellow bus

I spent a big chunk of my drive this morning two cars behind a big yellow school bus (fortunately, it didn't stop to pick up any children while I was behind it). The school bus was doing something amazing. It was driving the speed limit without being tailgated. There was a big line of cars behind it but no one was tailgating. I guess everyone was expecting the school bus to drive the speed limit, and no one seemed too upset. What if I were to buy a school bus, maybe just one of the van-size ones. I could drive around, and no one would bother me.

I think I'm losing it...having fantasies about driving a school bus.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Automated Speed Sign

A couple of weeks ago, they put an automated speed sign up just past where my accident was. It is one of those signs that tells you that the speed limit is 30 and then tells you how fast you are going. They took the sign away yesterday. I'm sure the sign makes a difference while it is there, but I wonder if it makes any difference once it is gone. Because there are no consequences, is suspect that this has less of a long-term impact than a speed trap. With a speed trap, it comes and goes and people don't want to pay a fine. I'm sure people don't want to be reminded that they are speeding, but when they are not being reminded, they don't care. With the speed trap, some people will get to know that speed traps are sometimes in that area and make an effort to slow down at least for a little while.

In our neighborhood, they built some new houses and widened a road nearby. The speed limit remained 25. A couple of years ago, they regularly had speed traps there although they are rare now. I don't know if the speed traps had a lasting impact, but I think people slowed down for quite a while after they were gone. I'm guessing that by next week, any lingering effect of the automated speed sign will be gone.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gender Issues

This week I'm exploring (in my head) whether I'm more comfortable being tailgated by a woman or a man. So far, as I have been paying attention to this, I seem to be more relaxed when a woman is following too closely. Perhaps, it has to do with the fact that I have never been gestured at by a woman. I've seen the look of exasperation from, but never directed (directly) at me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Slow Down for the Speed Trap -- Slow Way Down

I was driving on I-95 in a 65 m.p.h. zone. The traffic wasn't going much faster than 65 (maybe averaging 70). All of a sudden the brake lights came on and traffic slowed down to 50. Why? There was a police car on the side of the road, probably a speed trap. I can understand why everyone would want to slow down to 65, but I still can't figure out why we had to go all the way to 50.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Police Perpetually Stuck Behind Me

I was wondering yesterday if police officers always get annoyed by having to drive behind slow people. I was driving behind a police car (actually two) with another car in front of them. Most people drive the speed limit when a police car is behind them. That means that whenever a police car is behind someone, it is going to have to go the speed limit. From the police car's perspective, it is like they are always behind me. I figure that must be really annoying. And to confirm that the police car didn't want to be going that slowly, I watched as the car in front turned off and the police car started going much faster.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hanging out on the Left

The other day I was driving in the left lane (40 m.p.h. road with two lanes in each direction) because I had about half a mile to make a left turn. When there is a lot of traffic on that road (as there was that day), it is difficult to get from the right lane to the left at the last minute. A big yellow Hummer had gotten stuck in the right lane behind some cars making a right turn (that is the point I went to the left and passed the Hummer along with a bunch of other cars). I guess the driver of the Hummer was already angry because when he finally got out of the right lane, he got behind me. At the first opportunity he zipped into the right lane and back to the left in front of me and started gesturing that I should get over to the right. Right away, I turned on my blinker because my left turn was approaching. I hope he saw it and felt like an idiot...but I doubt it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Change the World

I have noticed that there are fewer cars behind me on my morning drive. I don't mean fewer tailgaters; I mean fewer cars at all. More and more often, I find big stretches of my drive with no one behind me. This morning, for half of my longest 30 m.p.h. stretch, the road was empty. For the rest of the drive, I generally had one person behind me.

Let's assume for a minute that I am somehow the cause of this (I'm sure I'm not, but I can still dream). Are cars realizing that this route is slow and picking alternate routes? Are cars slowing down so fewer are catching up to be behind me?

In reality, I can't imagine I am making that much of a difference (if any at all), but I was thinking, how many cars driving the speed limit on the same set of roads would it take to make a significant change? I could imagine that if someone had a similar schedule and ended up behind me a lot, that person might choose to do something different (drive more slowly, take an alternative route, enroll in an anger management program...), but my driving wouldn't have that big an impact on that many people (if any). Now, imagine there were 2 or 3 or 10 cars that drove that route around the same time at the speed limit. How many would it take before the route got a reputation for being slow?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Late for a Haircut

I got a haircut today. I was not running late, but I remembered driving to get a haircut a few months ago when I was late. I was driving behind someone who was going really slowly, and I was really frustrated. On the whole 30-minute route from my office, there are only a couple of places to pass, and there were cars coming every time. I was angry and frustrated and late. The way I remember it, the old woman was driving well below the speed limit.

Well, today, I was that old woman (I'm not old; and I'm not a woman). I'm sure the people behind me were mad and frustrated and sure I was driving well below the speed limit even though I was driving just above it.

How's my driving in front

On my way to work today, I was driving in front of a couple of commercial vehicles, the kind that might have a sign on the back: "How's my driving? Call 800-xxx-xxxx." These commercial vehicles weren't really too bad; they got a little too close but not scary close. But I was thinking that it might be nice to have those "How's my driving" signs on the front so someone could report a commercial vehicle that was a really bad tailgater.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fun with Chevy

I picked up a yellow Chevy as my tailgater for the most of the first part of my drive. When I turned onto the 40 m.p.h. stretch, I lost him. It wasn't until halfway through the next 30 m.p.h. stretch that he came up behind me again. I wonder if he stopped for a cup of coffee or just drives 40 all the time so he couldn't catch up with me until the speed limit went down.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Driving Alone

For half of my longest 30 m.p.h. stretch, I was all alone. I couldn't see any cars in front of me or behind me. You would think that this would be relaxing, but I kept thinking that either I could drive really slowly, or I should drive a little faster to make sure that no one caught up with me. I did just keep the same pace, but I was worried the whole time that someone would catch up and "ruin" my beautiful "stress-free" private drive. I got all the way to the traffic light (about mid-way through this road) and no one caught up to me. At the traffic light, cars came in behind me, and it wasn't until then that I realized how relaxed I had been. It wasn't even that the car behind me was tailgating, but I was collect a bit of a line of cars, and I was much tenser. I realized that even though I can't completely relax with no one behind me, it is much better than the alternative.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

50 is the new 40

I was driving with my wife, who, by the way, is an excellent driver. However, she does not always obey the speed limit as much as I do. That is to say, that, when it comes to the speed limit, she drives like everybody else. We were driving down a road near us with 2 lanes in each direction and a 40 m.p.h. speed limit. She was driving about 50 m.p.h. What amazed me was that, if I hadn't looked at the speedometer, I would have thought that she was driving 40. I would have thought this by the way the cars were zipping by her. It wasn't amazing to me that cars drive fast but that 50 seemed like 40 because cars were still zipping by. I wonder if anyone would have tailgated or given her the finger if there wasn't a lane to pass.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I couldn't imagine doing this

My daughters had a Sunday school teacher who said that whenever her kids catch her going over the speed limit, she had to pay them 50 cents. I don't know if this was really true, but I always thought that that was crazy because everyone drives over the speed limit. The average speed on highways is at least 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit and probably about the same on other roads. I could never imagine driving the speed limit. Now, look at me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Texting While Driving on My Tail

I was driving along at 30 m.p.h., and a black Honda SUV came up behind me pretty close. I have been tailgated more closely, so it wasn't anything unusual. When we pulled up to a red light, I looked back in my rear-view mirror to try to see if she was on her cell phone. I was pleased to see that she wasn't. Well, at least she didn't have anything up against her ear. Then I noticed that she had the cell phone in her hand next to the steering wheel, and she was texting. Once the light changed, I couldn't tell for sure if she continued to text, but I did notice her glancing down at the cell phone regularly. Then, to top it off, after the light, she started to show all the signs of being really impatient. She put her hand up (in an exasperated, not obscene, gesture) and even went over to the shoulder like she was going to pass, but I don't think it was really wide enough. Maybe she got an urgent text at the light and was more anxious about getting to work.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Five Stages of Being Tailgated

In keeping with yesterday's psychological theme, I present the Five Stages of Being Tailgated:

Denial - I can't believe that car is so close. Maybe if I don't look, it won't really be there.

Anger - That jerk! That idiot! I'll show him. I'll just go slower and really piss him off.

Bargaining - OK. Maybe if I go a little faster, he'll back off. 32 or 33 isn't so bad in a 30 zone. You think he'll be happier then?

Depression - What can I do? If I go slowly, the cars get angry with me and do unsafe things to try to get around me. If I go faster, I'm not driving safely. I should just stay home and cry and never leave my house again.

Acceptance - They can do what they want. I'm just going to keep driving at a safe speed. If they take my example, good. If they don't, that's fine, too. I can't help that they are angry. I can't make them angry. They make themselves angry.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Major Breakthrough

I remember back when I was a baby, and my mother ... No, no, no. This might qualify as a psychological breakthrough, but it has nothing to do with my childhood. I was driving by the scene of my accident with a car so close behind me that I couldn't even see its front bumper and hood in my rear-view mirror. Normally, I feel conflicted about driving slowly. I wonder whether, perhaps, I shouldn't go a little faster to give the guy behind me a break. This morning I didn't feel conflicted at all. I didn't get to the point where I wanted to slow down even more (to go below the speed limit) so I don't think I was angry. I think I was just at peace with the fact that I was going the speed limit (30, in this case), and that was fine, and I didn't care about the car behind me. I don't know if this is good or bad (perhaps, it would be better to always feel conflicted about going the speed limit when the cars behind me want to go faster; perhaps, not), but it is definitely a breakthrough of some sort.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Get Off Your Phone and Drive

Today's tailgater was a Nissan sedan driven by a woman on a cell phone. I would like to think that people driving while talking on their cell phones are ruder, do more tailgating, and are generally dumber and nastier people. I have absolutely no evidence to back that up, and most of it probably is not true, but I'm guessing people talking on their cell phones are, at least, more likely to tailgate.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Are you talking to me Jacka&&!?!?

Are you talking to me jacka&& (note to self: stop swearing in the blog)!?!? I'm riding on the highway this morning--four full lanes--and I'm in the second lane from the right. This jerk pulls up behind me and gestures before getting into the next lane over and passing. OK. Was he really gesturing at me? It wasn't a middle finger, just a hand going up and a look of exasperation. In fact, in the rear-view mirror, I couldn't be sure it was even a look of exasperation, let alone that it was directed at me. Never mind.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


That's too easy to go too fast. Because of the snow, I didn't drive much for about a week and a half. From February 5 through February 14, I worked from home and barely made it out of the house. I am finding that driving the speed limit is like a muscle. If you don't exercise it regularly it begins to atrophy. It's easier to stay slow than when I first started this, but I am finding that now that I've been out of practice, it takes a lot of concentration to stay within the speed limit. If I don't focus, I can easily find my speed drifting upward.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back to the Back Roads

It's been about a week since the last big snow, and schools are still closed, but I decided to drive on the back roads to work (I took the highway yesterday). I actually thought it was a good day to take the back roads because everyone is a bit more cautious. For most of the trip, I didn't even have anyone behind me, let alone tailgating me. What I found interesting was the condition of the roads.

Remember a few weeks back I posted about the design of roads (http://icandrive55.blogspot.com/2010/02/design-of-everyday-roads.html) and how part of the problem is that some of the slower roads appear to be made for faster driving? Well, today, I was surprised that once I got out of my immediate residential neighborhood, the worst road conditions were on the fastest road (the 40 m.p.h. stretch). Most of it was fine, but there were some spots that still had ice in the middle of the road. If I didn't know the speed limits, I would have pegged that road as a 30 m.p.h. road today.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Lanes

It's back to work after the big snow. I shouldn't be surprised that everyone is still in a hurry, but you would think that, with the obvious dangers, everyone would slow down. The roads aren't too bad now, but there are many spots where there are some significant hazards, including icing (especially in the morning) and lanes that unexpectedly end. Some of the two-lane roads are down to one lane, and some of the ones that aren't have some spots where the right lane is impassable. To be fair, most people are slowing down, but a few try to pass on the right and run into lanes that are covered in snow and ice. I usually hang out in the right lane, but I've been spending more time in the left lane because of bad conditions on the right. The ones who can't wait try to zip by on the right. I haven't seen an accident yet, but I'm sure there are plenty happening from this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another Snow Day

I made it out yesterday to run a couple of errands (before Snowlapalooza / Snowpocalypse / Snowmageddon / Snownami / Snowricane Part II. Nothing is moving today. Yesterday, I noticed some smarter road work. In the past, I have noticed many streets were relatively clear, but the intersections were big blocks of ice. This is really dangerous because you can drive along normally for a while, but you can't stop when you need to most. Yesterday, I noticed the opposite. Many of the back roads were sheets of ice, but the intersections were perfectly clear. This kept everyone's speeds down and meant that by the time you got to the intersection, you could stop easily.

I also noticed that drivers were careful, cautious, and polite. On roads that were barely wide enough to let two cars pass each other, cars were pulling over to let the oncoming car go by. I can't say it was a pleasure to drive on icy, snowy, and slushy roads, but I can say that it was nice to see how everyone was driving.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow Day

The snow is coming so I'm working from home today so I don't have any driving tales (or anyone driving on my tail).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bipolar Blogging: Passed on the Shoulder

I knew he was trouble. This jerk in a black Honda sedan was coming up behind me in a 30 m.p.h. zone. He must have been going 45 (maybe 50), and he comes right up to my tail. Can you believe this idiot does the most stupid and dangerous thing. There is about one block where there is very wide shoulder. He can't pass on the left, not because of the double yellow line (I'm sure he would have ignored that), but because traffic was coming, and he would have been killed (it would have served him right). So, he zips around me on the right. I could still see him ahead for a while because the traffic ahead wasn't too clear, but he must have found a way to zip by a few more cars so I lost him. What a jerk!

* * * * *

I was so happy this morning. I really don't want to slow everyone else down. When I approach an intersection, I hope the people that are waiting to turn, turn in front of me so I don't slow them down. Today, a black Honda sedan came up behind me. I was really happy that he found a way to pass me by going around me on the shoulder (there was just enough time where the shoulder was wide enough for someone to pass). It was a win-win. I didn't have to be stressed by someone sitting on my tail, and he got to work on time. Besides, it's always an extra treat when I have something special to write about in my blog.

* * * * *

Who am I kidding? That guy was a dangerous jerk, and he is going to get himself killed one day with stunts like that.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is that the same guy?

My ride to work is 12 miles if I go my usual route (today I took the highway to avoid snowy back roads). My schedule isn't exact, but it is somewhat regular. After doing this for a few months, I'm pretty sure I am seeing some of the same people over and over again (that's part of why my unscientific poll that "proves" that Mercedes owners are nice is really silly--I might just see the same 3 or 4 nice Mercedes drivers each time while all the nasty Mercedes owners drive a different route). I bring this up because I am suspecting that, last night, I was tailgated by the same guy who flipped me off a couple of weeks ago (see Road Rage). I remember it being a large, dark SUV as was this (this one was a Toyota), and he got behind me at about the same place and turned off at exactly the same place. I think he even honked at me once during my biggest 30 m.p.h. stretch. I didn't look at him when he turned right and I turned left so I don't know if he flipped me off again. I'm just thinking that after a few more months, I will have been in traffic with the same people over and over again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Design of Everyday Roads

I have been thinking about the design of roads. For the most part, speed limits are set based on the safe speed to travel on the road (I'm sure there are limits that could be higher or should be lower, but the basic premise is that speeds are set for real reasons). The problem is that roads are not always designed to encourage people to drive those speeds. One of my favorite books is Donald Norman's The Design of Everyday Things. He talks about how the design of simple objects can either suggest to the user how the objects should be used (not by printed instructions but by the way the objects are made) or give the user bad information that makes the objects difficult to use (think about a corkscrew; it almost works itself because every part tells you what to do with it).

Roads are the same way. We know a lot about how to drive on a road by the way it is designed, but I submit that we don't know how fast to drive by the way the roads are designed. In my trip to work (if I don't take the highway), I drive on roads that are 25 m.p.h., 30 m.p.h., 35 m.p.h., and 40 m.p.h. The problem is that it is very difficult to tell the difference just by driving on the road. I'm not saying the speed limits are wrong; I'm assuming that they are correct. I'm saying that the design of the road should suggest the speed. For example, my accident took place on a road that is 30 m.p.h., but almost no one drives 30 m.p.h. (and the woman who lives near the accident scene says that accidents happen there regularly). Donald Norman might suggest that if everyone is trying to drive 40 or 45, then it's not the fault of the people but the design of the road. Why is it that the 30 m.p.h. roads are as wide if not wider than the 40 m.p.h. roads? Width is one tip that you can drive faster.

I've never met anyone who likes "traffic calming" (speed bumps, speed humps, traffic circles, narrow sections, etc.), but if the road is designed to make you think you can go fast, that might be the only solution.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Am not an A**hole

...and I would like to keep it that way. There are two kinds of a**holes: those who do things, and those who are overly fanatical in opposing those who do things. There is no one more annoying than the person who bothers you for not believing what he didn't believe 5 minutes ago. To be more intellectual, I'll paraphrase Neil Postman who says that any belief that is too closely held, one that excludes tolerance for others, may result in "psychopathic fanaticism."

This is part of the reason I write this blog. I can blow off a little steam and also temper my thoughts so I don't become psychopathically fanatical. I keep reminding myself:
  • I used to drive like they did.
  • They have important places to go, and I'm slowing them down.
  • Some of those places are very, very important, and if I were in their shoes (late for a job interview, trying to be on time for my kid's birthday party, rushing to the hospital to see a dying relative, etc.), I would be just as annoyed at the slow-poke in front of me.
  • It's easy to be distracted and not realize how close you are getting to the car in front of you.
  • Driving 25 m.p.h. in a 25 zone feels totally unnatural and takes a lot of practice.
  • Driving 25 m.p.h. (or even 30) feels really really slow even when it is the speed limit.
If I had more time, I'm sure I could keep expanding this list, and I might in future posts. Just to summarize, I have to constantly remind myself: Don't be an a**hole. If you see that on a bumper sticker, remember, it's directed as much at me as it is at you (for the record, I don't have that on a bumper sticker...yet).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Next Car Will Be a Mercedes

OK. That's not true. It's a big step up in price and step down in mileage from my current car (a Toyota Yaris), but I have two more data points (in my totally meaningless and unscientific report on driving behavior). This morning I was following two Mercedes at different points in my drive. That's right, I was actually behind other cars. This almost never happens unless there is congested traffic. But today, I got behind a Mercedes on my 40 m.p.h. stretch and actually had to slow down a couple of times so I wasn't tailgating. It was great! Then the Mercedes didn't make the same turn I did, but I got behind, amazingly enough, another Mercedes on my biggest 30 m.p.h. stretch. This Mercedes didn't make me slow down, but it didn't get far ahead of me. I was in heaven (even with the Saturn SUV--I used to drive a Saturn--on my tail).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ridge Riding

I've been checking out some hypermiling groups. I've always been somewhat fascinated with hypermiling, but I'm not trying it, and I'm not driving the speed limit to save on gas. One technique someone suggested in one of the groups to avoid people getting angry with you is ridge riding. The basic idea is sto sit on the white line on the edge of the road. There are some reasons why it will help you get better mileage and might make people think you are having trouble and feel sorry for you instead of angry. But it seems to be best left to the highway (where I have the least trouble with angry drivers). On the narrow roads I drive to work, there doesn't seem to be a ridge to ride most of the way.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Road Rage

I was flipped off on the way home yesterday so I have been thinking about road rage. OK, being flipped off is the mildest form of road rage, but it is still road rage. I keep thinking about the feeling of anonymity in the car. The guy who did it, I'm sure, thinks of himself of anonymous. But when he flipped me off, how did he know I wasn't his doctor (I'm not a doctor) or his kid's teacher. We're within a couple of miles of my house (and probably his) and chances are that we'll see each other again.

I've been in a hurry and annoyed by the slower person in front of me (even now, there are occasionally slower people in front of me). Usually, it happens when I'm driving to class, and I'm later than I would like to be. But I always imagine if I flip someone off, it's going to turn out to be one of my students.

By the way, I didn't cut the guy off or drive slower than the speed limit. He was behind me for most of the way home through roads that were 30 m.p.h. (where I was going 32) and roads that were 40 m.p.h (where I was going 42).

Sometimes this anger gets to me (that's probably why I'm writing a blog that no one is reading), and I think I should drive a little faster. Then, this morning I hit a slick spot on the road (not the same slick spot where I had my accident), and I was very thankful that I was going the speed limit. I'm pretty sure I would have lost control if I had been going 5 m.p.h. faster; even at 30, it wasn't easy to keep control on this slick spot (black ice from the warm daytime temperatures and the below-freezing night time temperatures). I'm almost certain that someone else is going to hit that same spot this morning and wipe out. I guess I should start looking for that person's blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm just one car

I remember something like this being on the news when I was in sixth grade.

Cadillac vs. Mercedes

Yesterday, I had two different luxury cars behind me for most of the way to work: a Cadillac and a Mercedes. The Cadillac sat on my tail as close as it could get, but the Mercedes stayed a safe distance behind. I saw it coming in my rear view mirror. It was going a good 5-10 m.p.h. faster than I was, and I was fearing another tailgater. Then, as it started to get closer, it slowed down and stayed a comfortable distance back. Another totally unscientific data point in favor of Mercedes drivers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Almost no tailgaters

Yesterday, I almost made it all the way to and from work without any tailgaters. I just had one on my last stretch to work for about a mile or two. Other than that, driving was blissful (and none of this was highway driving).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Benefits of driving 55 - not

One of the benefits of driving the speed limit is not having to worry about speed traps. I can just drive on by without worry when I see a police car on the side of the road...theoretically. Today, I was driving along the highway right at 55 (in a 55 zone), and I saw a police car and instinctively hit the breaks. So much for this extra benefits.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Scary Close

We got a dusting of snow last night so I thought the traffic would behave...I was wrong! I had the usual tailgaters, but one Ford pickup truck was scary. He didn't pass me, but he was as close as he could get without actually hitting my bumper; it was scary. When I turned and he didn't, he went around me so closely that I thought he was going to scrape my car.

The only humor was when we got an intersection, and I turned on my blinker, I watched him shaking his head, doomed to follow me some more. It was even funnier that, in this case, he really couldn't go anywhere. When I got to the intersection, the line of 5 cars that I had been following was sitting at the stop sign. When he passed me, most of that line was still a few car lengths in front of me. Sometimes, you can get ahead by going faster and sometimes you can just annoy yourself by trying.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Passed by a taxi

I could see it coming. The taxi wasn't just the average tailgater. He was itching to get by, and he did...right at the spot where I had my accident. Visibility is low, and the curve is deceptively sharp, but he went by anyway.

I was also tailgated by a Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota, and Lexus. I'm not sure what make of car was keeping a safe following distance, but she didn't stay behind me for too long, turning off somewhere.