Annoyed While Driving

I drive a lot —about 80 miles a day—and I’m easily annoyed. This is not a good combination.

The number one thing that bothers me is tailgating. It drives me up a wall. It’s probably partly because I was rear ended on the motorcycle a few years back, and ended up breaking my collar bone. No fun, let me tell you.

When I went through driver ed, the rule was to leave about two seconds worth of distance between you and the car ahead of you. You notice when the car ahead of you passes a marker, then count off seconds until you pass it. “One-one thousand, two-one thousand”. If you don’t get to two, whatever your speed, you’re too close. This has the effect of opening up more space the faster you go. Now, however, I often see people come up right behind me on the interstate, or so close I can’t see their headlines on the local streets.

Generally speaking, if I see someone approaching from the rear, I’ll try to get out of the way, if I can. Sometimes though, I get boxed in, and closing up behind me just makes matters worse—then I can’t drop back behind the car next to me and get out of the way. Self-defeating.

I don’t think people realize how much distance they’re covering per second when they drive. Let’s say you’re going 60 MPH, to keep the math simple. This means you’re going a mile a minute, or 5280 ft ÷ 60 second = 88 feet per second. It takes most people around .2 – .3 seconds to react—assuming they’re paying full attention, and can process what they’re seeing, so that’s about 16 feet of distance before you can even start to brake. I’ve been driving long enough to know that strange things can happen to the car ahead of me. The driver may not be paying attention, and may not realize he needs to slow down until nearly too late. The engine may die. They may hit a patch of ice and spin out. If that happens, I need to react, and if you’re behind me, you need to react too.

The scariest drivers of all are the tailgaters who are yakking on their cell phones. (most often young women). They’re too close to begin with, and they’re not paying attention, so their reaction times are off. I try to get away from them as fast as I can; if I can’t I try to open up more space ahead of me, since I’ll have to manage space for both of us.

A related annoyance, and one I’m seeing more of lately, is people driving beneath the speed limit, in good weather, on the highway. The big problem on I-95 used to be staying out of the way of the drivers flying past at 85 mph; now, it’s getting stuck behind someone going 50. In the center lane. They present a problem because cars tend to bunch up behind them, each tailgating the other, and if something happens to one, you’ll have a train wreck.

These drivers come in two flavors. The first flavor are older drivers. They’re probably in the center lane because they don’t see well and want lots of space around them. I wish they’d move over to the right lane, but at least they tend to run at a constant speed. They annoy me, but I try to remember I’ll be in their shoes some day.

The other kind of slow driver is the cell phone talker (again). They’re not paying attention to their speed, so they’ll slow down even further, then speed up, then slow down. Get off the phone and drive please.