Reckless Drivers are the Reason You Can’t Afford a Nicer Car
I am a painfully slow driver.
Maybe it is the hazards of a career in insurance; I have seen too much. Now, I imagine bad things too much.
I don’t know if it is fair to blame it all on my career path. I do have, after all, an overactive mind and a fearful mom.
So when I’m out driving, I stay in the slow lane, barely hitting the speed limit of the area. If anyone in the car wants to talk to me, I’m able to answer them while simultaneously hitting the brakes for the knucklehead swerving into my lane.
I’m ready for the hazards of the road, which many times include road rage.
I’m reminded of my sister, who, when she was cut off in traffic by someone, bravely and unapologetically brandished a middle finger at her trespassers.
My stepdad pulled her aside one day and explained to her the unknown harms of flipping someone and how it could trigger them and make them explode.
It was sound advice, especially for my sister who lives in Texas, where people don’t take kindly to birds flipped at them in the road, especially not brown birds, even if such brown birds are in monster trucks.
So my sister modified her approach.
When she gets cut off and gets upset, she still flips the clumsy or distracted drivers, but under the steering wheel — above the steering, she remains cool and composed like a lime on a Corona.
I also think of my friend who told me the story about her brother. My friend’s brother had a jeep. She said that he cut off someone once, and the person was so upset that he chased him down and threw a ninja star at her brother and GOT HIM!!!!
I don’t know if this story is true. I want to believe it is.
Can you imagine?
First of all, who the hell carries ninja stars not only in the car but with them?
Then there is the question of proficiency.
How many people in the world can throw them from a moving car into another moving car with what I can only imagine is a small opening and get someone? If I was ever on a jury where someone killed a person under the circumstances I describe above, I’d have no other option than to acquit them. Yes, it was a crime, but so is punishing mastery.
We Bring All of Our Frustration to the Road
The roads and all of our enemies on them become proxies for all the frustrations and dramas of our day-to-day.
The unbalance of our lives showing up when we are driving while talking on speaker phone, touching up our make up, and eating ramen.
How, you ask, can such a feat be accomplished?
I didn’t get the chance to ask the driver — shouting at cars with rolled-up windows is frowned upon.
Driving is a weird stage performance that we all engage in and becomes about much more than just driving.
On The Road Again
One that I think about often whenever I leave my house to run an errand during peak hours and drive on overpasses to go to my destination. I can see the backed-up freeways but only going one direction.
Watching commuting traffic is like watching ‘bunch ball.’ If you don’t know what ‘bunch ball’ is when kids play soccer, and all the kids are going after the ball at the same time.
The word also brings an image to my mind, something from the hand of Charles Schultz, where someone says, “there is the ball,’ and everybody runs after the ball. Then realizing the ball is no longer there, they move to the next ball.
That’s what commuter traffic looks like.
“Okay, we need to work.” Everybody runs to work at the same time
“We need to return from work.” Everybody returns from work at the same time.
“Okay, we are done with our overrated tech jobs, time to spend a few days by our lake house to justify that our lives make sense.” Everybody runs to their lake/river cabins at the same time.
“Time to beat the traffic because everybody has to be back at the office tomorrow morning.” Everybody tries to beat the traffic at the same time, effectively canceling the benefits of leaving early.
For a while, ‘bunch ball’ was gone along with all other major televised sports played in the United States.
But now we are back on the road.
Everybody is back tot he office.
Executives tried the WFH (work from home) approach, and they thought, ‘meh, I like to have the same results I’d have from work from home, but I want the added benefit of being able to see my employees do it.’
Now, we are all back to our commute.
Two hours there and two hours back. Why spend those hours with your family when you can spend them surrounded by people doing the same thing as you but in their own cars?
It is like separate but together at the same time. It’s some interaction but not too much.
Plus, you have the added benefit that you can listen to podcasts.
Nobody Likes Podcasts
Podcasts are the lies we tell ourselves to justify the fact that our lives are fading away inside the cabin of our vehicles. We spend more time inside our cars than we spend with our spouses. Is it any wonder some weirdos resort to calling their cars by human names? No, ti’s is not.
So we are back to our cubes. We are back to our cars, and we keep on practicing the old art of stopping our cars between your neighbors’ cars so we can pick our boogers and flick them at the mat while we worry whether or not your spouse’s lawyer is capable of finding the money we’ve been stowing away in our Cayman Islands’ bank account and demand it as part of the partition of goods at the divorce.
But your dramas might not be inspired by a John Grisham novel.
Of course, your dramas might not be as thrilling as this one. But they are still important. To you, of course; to nobody else. But you bring them to the road. The burning question if this is all there is, your neighbor’s inability to shut up their dog in the middle of the night, the challenges of raising teenagers, or, in my case, wondering why my daughter’s body decided to grow three teeth at the exact same time. Torture!
It Affects All of Us
So that slow gray Honda Civic becomes a target. A victimless target; that is it if you don’t crash, of course. If you crash, there is not only a repercussion for you, your car, and that of your victim.
We wonder why our auto insurance keeps coming up if we are such good drivers.
What many people miss (actually, very few people know this) is that insurance doesn’t depend on individual behavior. Or, more accurately, it doesn’t depend solely on individual behavior. The behavior of the pool (or the groups of risks you are a part of) is part of it, the legislative environment of where you live, the cost of money, returns on investment, nuclear verdicts, the cost of cars, the cost of repairs, inflation, insurance fraud, social inflation, existential angst, abandonment issues… wait, what are we talking about?
Insurance is expensive, but it is so great to drive angrily while on the road.
Some people like to say car accidents are the leading causes of death in the US. That’s not completely accurate. It is the leading cause of non-medical deaths. But it still takes 36K lives a year.
It also claims more lives than homicide and suicide. But it doesn’t make headlines. It’s not protected by a polemic amendment. Politicians don’t base campaigns for or against it. [Insert here conspiracy theory about the car industry with their lobbyists with your senator in their pocket.] It doesn’t feed the media and news frenzies because we all have to do it.
And so far, driving a car is not yet a political statement.
Besides, if something was to happen to us on the road, we were behind the wheel. Talk about control.
So is the solution to stop driving? No, of course not. Our societies, our economies, and our way of living will come to a violent halt if we stop driving.
But maybe we can drive a little more mindfully, look for work-life balance, respect others on the road, work our real issues outside of the car, maybe sign up for a gym, maybe get a punching bag to exorcise your demons with a few arthritic roundhouse kicks.
And when all that fails, please, consider flipping people off under the steering wheel.
Fatality Facts 2020 State by state by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Car Accident Statistics by Driver Knowledge.
Fatal Car Accidents by State 2022 by World Population Review.
Road Rage Statistics in 2022 by The Zebra.