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 ( 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.