For the last month I’ve been commuting to and from Northern Virginia, by state and national highways. Because of mechanical issues at high speeds I have been avoiding the interstate system, meaning I am often on 2-lane roads (one each way) through middle-of-nowhere towns. Over the course of this time I’ve come across several small frustrations which I would like to address.
DISCLAIMER: This post contains some language that people may consider strong or unnecessary. I’ve tried to limit it. I don’t use it liberally, but in an effort to emphasize a point. Chances are, if you’re old enough to drive, you’re old enough to read this.
Speed limits are a big deal and a big cause for concern. Between those who do 45mph in a 55 zone, and those who do 65, there is a big range for frustration. Personally I’m one to do 5-over, e.g. 60 in a 55 zone, 30 in a 25 zone, etc. I’m pretty forgiving of those who are going a little faster than I, or a little slower down to the limit, but I tend to get frustrated when people are sitting on the 45 mark in a 55 zone for prolonged periods of time with no obvious explanation, and traffic backing up behind.
- If you can’t maintain the speed limit, pull over and let traffic by.
- Driving below the speed limit does not promote safe driving – the opposite, in fact, as those stuck behind grow more and more frustrated and look to do increasingly dangerous things to get past you.
This is pretty similar to speed limits, and is often related. Let me put it this way: Three Feet is NOT a safe following distance. Especially at 65mph. Especially in a 55mph speed zone. Back. The Fuck. Off. I’m not kidding, I had a Ford van sitting three feet off my rear bumper tonight while I was doing 65mph in a 55mph zone (yes, I was speeding. It was also the status quo on that road at the time, so doing significantly less would have also been dangerous). Somehow it still wasn’t enough for him.
I don’t want to, but I swear one day I will just slam my brakes and let someone run into the back of my car. Always always always leave enough space between yourself and the car in front that you can stop before them. It’s also worth noting that one of my favorite things to do while driving is block weavers and tailgaters. Whenever I see someone weaving up behind me or sitting on my bumper at speed, I like to find someone in the other lane (usually the right lane) and slow down to their speed. It only works on two-lane highways, but it does wonders to release stress built up by seeing someone riding my bumper. Quite amusing, in fact.
This is probably the one that I am most hypocritical on, if I’m honest. But turn signals are not hard – if you’re turning off the road and traffic is behind you, use a signal. I’m usually following at a safe distance, but if I see your brake lights come up it is particularly helpful to me and those behind me to know if I am slowing down as you go around a corner, or if we’re all slowing down to a stop for something your vehicle is blocking from view. A simple swipe of the hand is enough to let us know you’re turning.
Quickly here, let’s discuss some terminology.
- Dipped – some people might refer to these as regular lights, driving lights, low beams.
- High beams – also called brights, possibly other terms.
If you are driving behind someone, you shouldn’t have your brights on. If you are driving toward someone, you shouldn’t have your brights on. The only time it is acceptable to have your brights on is when you are at the front of a group of traffic travelling in the same direction and no-one is coming the other way in front of you.
This is probably the one I find the most frustrating personally, to the point I’ve taken to turning my rear view mirror away from me. Not just moving it down to the night position, but actually away (most often pointing straight back in a piss-poor revenge attempt).
Really, guys, this isn’t hard. I most often run into it when I’m coming up on the peak of a hill or around a corner. It’s pretty common to see the aura of someone’s headlights in the atmosphere, or reflecting of surrounding objects before the full brightness is realized when the lights themselves come into view. I do my best to dip my lights before blinding the other driver and a fair number of others do too. I wish more people would.
The other time I see it is when someone has come up behind me or I’ve made a pass and the person behind has failed to check their lights. It’s not that hard – just check them occasionally and pay special attention when someone goes around you, or you are coming up on cars ahead.
This probably falls under Speed Limits too, but it gets really annoying when you end up playing leap-frog with someone who can’t maintain a stable speed. I realize not all modern cars have cruise control, and even those that do don’t handle acceleration or grades the same, but come on. Several times recently I’ve had my cruise set and come up behind someone, only to go around them and have them pass me again, and THEN repeat that two or three times after that. I don’t think it should be so hard to maintain a speed.
You go, I go, you go, I go. It’s the fairest way to merge and it works world wide. It doesn’t just work for merging lanes but also for stop signs and other traffic obstacles where turns should be taken. It’s easy, really. Let someone in and then take your turn, and don’t jump the line. It will keep those around you much happier.
That’s my rant. I’m sure I’ll add more to it later. It’s mostly about thinking about the interests of others and not just your own. Get to where you need to go, but don’t take over the road to do it.