The Year of Driving Dangerously

August 13, 2019

Up here in Boston, and I suspect in most major urban centers, traffic congestion is becoming unbearable, and only getting worse. But what is even more unbearable and getting worse is the increasing danger of just plain driving your car, whether to the mall or simply to fill up at the gas station.

It is now commonplace to experience being cut off by an impatient driver, passed on the highway by someone exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph, seeing stories on the news of drivers beating each other up on the side of the road or shooting it out, usually over a minor infraction. My pet peeve are the people who enter an intersection at 40 mph and then at the last second come to a stop as you wonder whether they are just going to ignore the traffic sign. Meanwhile you fear for your life.

Road rage is now commonplace, courtesy is a virtue from a bygone era, and obeying the rules of the road are just an inconvenience to be ignored. Speed is all important and weaving from one lane to another at 80-90 mph is now the new rule of the road. Then of course there are the proliferation of middle finger salutes by those kings and queens of the highways who can’t understand why someone would drive the posted limit.

I must admit that I come from a different era  and with my age take a more cautious approach to driving. I am not a Sunday driver out for an afternoon stroll, but I do obey the rules and expect that others would do the same.  Sadly, I am quickly becoming a minority, an old man who just can’t adjust to the new way of driving.

I suspect that all this aggressiveness behind the wheel is the result of depressingly long rides home from work or the frustrations at the office being released on the way home. But not a day goes by without the news of a major crash on a highway with deaths the story line. As I watch the news of another deathly accident I plead to the television set, “Please, just settle down and drive carefully.”

Unfortunately, we are not a country that uses mass transit as a means of traveling to a destination; it’s all about the car and the privacy of sitting alone in traffic. Now sitting in a overcrowded subway car or commuter train is not my idea of fun, but it does give people an opportunity to relax, sleep, read or converse while someone else does the driving. This option is not going to move to the forefront of transportation in this country, but instead will be replaced by driving dangerously. Watch out, keep alert and follow the old refrain – drive defensively, only now drive defensively as if your life depended on it.