Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Drive, You Nuts.

(50) Drive, You Nuts.

If road rage had a birthplace, it probably was in Tel Aviv or Rome or Boston. These cities used to be the homes of the world’s worst drivers and some of the world’s hottest tempers. But no more.

New York, you say? No way. New York gets a lot of bum raps and bad driving shouldn’t be one of them. In fact, anyone who can get across 125th street from river to river in under an hour should get a medal.

(Notwithstanding, the old joke has some validity: “Should we walk, or do we have time to take the bus?”)

You may see someone take a left turn from the right lane from time to time (usually a taxi,) but for the most part, people who drive in Manhattan know what they’re doing. Same is true for those who use the highways in and around the place. Things may move slowly, but they DO move on weekdays. But try the same roads on a weekend and you know where they got the term “Sunday driver.”

So where are the world’s worst drivers today? The suburbs. Ignored stop signs, failure to signal. Speeding. If they had enough cops and street cameras to catch these guys, they could pay the local debt. Maybe the national debt.

They’re not generally rude, at least not on purpose. They’re just unconscious. And not just behind the wheel, either (but that’s a topic for another day.)

Blame some of this on the auto industry. Today’s cars – even the worst of them, maneuver so well, one gets the feeling that they drive themselves and that impression is partly right.

There are so many safety features – crumple zones, seat belts, air bags, that a driver can get an ill-conceived feeling of invulnerability. So, the natural tendency might be to driver carelessly. After all, you have “On-Star,” or a cell phone and all that tricky safety stuff built in.

But you can’t blame Detroit, Tokyo or Wolfsburg for that. It’s still the Nut Behind The Wheel.

We talk on those cell phones. We have satellite radio, and sometimes an actual in-person conversation to distract us.

Is the current generation of drivers less well coordinated than in the past? Probably not. This same bunch goes to the gym three times a week, plays weekend softball, bowls, plays tennis and goes hunting without Cheney-like complications.

But there is one thing that has improved: the notion that women are worse than men.

Old story: a woman sticks her hand out the driver’s side window. Is she signaling or drying her nails?

No more. That’s because (a) today’s nail polish dries almost instantly, (b) both men and women have their nails polished and (c) No one uses hand signals.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

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