"Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?" -George Carlin
Last week, on my way to work, I had an epiphany.
A car sped up to my left preparing to pass me, when I realized that without my conscious consent, my foot pushed harder on the gas. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I eased up, checked my speed, and took a deep breath.
Why had I done that? It's my job as a fellow driver to make it easier for others on the road if I can, right?
It was a knee-jerk reaction, but it happens all the time. And not only to me. I've seen others do the same. Is it possible we are all guilty of some form of road rudeness?
Why Are There So Many Rude Drivers?
Why? Do we really have a desire to race the car next to us? Blood lust to always be 'number one'? Is it a personal insult that another driver would dare to get in the lead? As we mumble to ourselves about all of the other drivers on the road, maybe we need to take a moment to check our own rearview mirror, and a closer look at things all of us have done while on the street.
And it's not just passing. How about when someone tries to merge onto the road right in front of you? Right in front of you. Do you brake to let them in...or speed up? Do you get over to the left lane to allow more cars to enter the highway? Or do you lay on the horn?
And remember the last time someone wanted to re-enter the road in front of you from a parking lot? Did you let them out (if possible), or accelerate? Because, after all, you have to be somewhere important, and the driver of the car behind you will most likely let them out. Their lives couldn't possibly be as busy or stressful as yours or mine.
Are The Rules Different On Foot?
I like to think of myself as a courteous person. My parents raised me to respect others, be polite, and obey the rules. I say 'please', 'thank you', and 'excuse me'. I hold the door for the person behind me, and offer help to strangers in need. Most of us do.
So why, then, is it different when we get behind the wheel? All of the common courtesies we extend to others in person just seem to disappear while trucking down the road.
Remember, despite my upbringing, my first instinct was to speed up. Does that make me a bad person?
No. It makes me human, with all of the flaws and emotions that go along with that title. Are we perfect? No, and we shouldn't try to be. We do these things without ever being aware that we're doing them.
Well, most of us, anyway.
And I truly believe that we don't make a decision to be mean or unhelpful. It's a split second, knee-jerk reaction most of us are completely unaware of doing.
We're busy. We're tired. And we just need to get where we're going. It's a hectic world we live in.
So here it is. My epiphany. It's simple, really. Nothing we haven't heard before. We live by these words each and every day. We just need to apply them to driving, and be aware of decisions we make on the road and how others would perceive those decisions.
The Golden Rule...Of Driving
You remember the Golden Rule, right? "Do to others what you want them to do to you."
The next time my foot is on the gas, I'm going to try to live by these words by asking myself these questions:
Would I want someone to speed up so I can't pass?
Do I want someone to switch lanes if possible so I can merge more safely onto the highway?
Would I like someone to let me out when trying to re-enter the road after grocery shopping, running an errand, getting home from a long day of work?
If everyone keeps the same moral compass on the road as they do in their daily face-to-face encounters, maybe the road will be a safer place for everyone.
And if not safer, then at least there will be a lot less angry drivers on the road.
I'm going to try. I hope you will, too.
*Oh, and don't be afraid to raise your hand in thanks to the next driver who extends these same courtesies to you. We thank people for help given all the time. Gratitude is appreciated on the road, too.
Good luck, and keep on moving on. Be safe, everyone!
"Your purpose while driving is not to arrive at your destination safely or quickly. Your purpose when driving is...to improve your personality on he road." -Martin Amos