If you’re a Proud American Traveler, it’s that wonderful time of year when hordes of us hit the road to stuff our faces at Grandmother’s house or head to the city to see the twinkling lights.
Then there are the packed parking lots, distracted people going out to eat, going to parties, hitting the best sales – coffee in one hand and cell phone in the other.
Along with tidings of good joy, there are a lot of idiots out there on the roads. Are you one of them?
Distracted driver, no survivors
The problem with bad drivers is that they think they’re good drivers.
To them, turn signals are optional, last-second lane switches the norm, and it’s somehow acceptable to drive with their knees as they talk on the phone with one hand and drink their Starbucks Peppermint Mocha in the other.
If you’re a bad driver and don’t know it, here are some warning signs.
First and most importantly, do you text and drive? Then you’re a bad – and dangerous – driver.
Are you paying attention to the road or distracted with trying to plan how you’re going to accomplish the million things that need to be done between now and Christmas?
You’re probably not paying attention if 1) every driver around you is laying on the horn, 2) you notice an awful lot of obscene hand gestures for what’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” 3) drivers are taking the time to stop, roll down their window and yell the obscenities at you, or 4) you’ve been in several accidents that “aren’t your fault.”
If one or more of these things happens to you on a regular basis, you’re a bad driver.
Or really, really bad driver?
So it’s bad enough if you’re a bad driver and don’t recognize it. But then there are some red flags that you cannot possibly rationalize away.
Do friends and loved ones always insist they drive when you’re with them, especially after you’ve offered to drive? This means they’re petrified to get in the car with you.
If you have a newer-model car with all the bells and whistles, then your vehicle will actually let you know you’re a really bad driver – like when you’re speeding, drifting out of your lane, or making your car uncomfortable by braking or accelerating too quickly.
When your GPS voice says “redirecting” multiple times, you’re probably not paying attention to where you’re going.
Then there are the vehicles that actually brakes the car for you when you’re not paying attention. If your car has to brake because you failed to, you’re a bad driver.
And then there are the road ragers. If you ride other drivers’ tails (not the word I want to use), swerve in and out of lanes with no signal, scream and yell, run people out of their lanes or send pedestrians running back to the curb, you’re the worst.
This is why no one wants to ride with you.
And this is the type of stuff that gets people killed. Accidents increase this time of year between a combination of distracted and angry drivers.
Help me help you…
Sure, we all get distracted this time of year.
There’s way more traffic, and it’s really annoying when there’s so much to do. And then there are the minivans with reindeer antlers and red noses on the grill. We appreciate your spirit, if not your choices.
But for those of us who are good drivers, we’re actually on high-alert and high-anxiety this time of year because we know the idiots are out there just waiting to rear-end us, or T-bone us, or side-swipe us, or make us rear-end them!
If you’ve met any of the above “bad driver” criteria and still don’t think it’s you – it’s you!!
There’s no real 12-step program for bad drivers, unless you’re so familiar with traffic court that the judge sends you to driving school.
If you’re at that point, maybe you’ll learn something. If you’ve been lucky and your bad driving hasn’t caught up with you or anyone else yet, let’s keep it that way.
Good drivers are polite, courteous, and above all, aware of what’s going on around them at all times.
You with me so far?
More specifically, good drivers are not selfish pigs hellbent on getting to their destination no matter what carnage they leave behind them.
Human beings are programmed for survival. We want to stick around awhile. More importantly, we want our family and friends to stick around. And we even want you to stick around, even if your driving sucks.
Just think about this: One mere moment of stupidity can ruin lives – your life and the life of the person you hurt while driving like an idiot. Vehicular manslaughter carries stiff penalties. You really don’t want to spend your Christmas on a dirty cot with a cellmate named Bubba.
So, here’s what you’ve got to do…
Slow down – nothing is so important that it’s worth anyone being hurt in the process. Obey the speed limit and slow down on snowy or wet roads, during periods of heavy traffic, or if you feel especially stressed-out.
Then the obvious, not texting while driving (or worse, drinking at the Christmas party and getting behind the wheel). One third of Americans admit to texting and driving. Just say no. The email or phone call can wait.
Keep a safe driving distance between you and the car in front of you, and scan the road ahead for any potential issues like broken-down cars or other idiot drivers swerving all over the place.
Use your mirrors and turn signals. And do this before you change lanes or make a turn. Putting your signal on as you’re entering the other lane doesn’t get you any points.
Be aware of everything going on around you, including in your own car.
Is your husband/wife nagging you about something? Is your kid throwing up all over the back seat because you let them eat a dozen Christmas cookies? Do you have a stack of pies on your front seat about to topple over that you’re shielding with your arm? (I’ve done this and learned my lesson.)
Then just pull over. Deal with the situation out of the way of other drivers who will be endangered by your inability to pay attention.
Red means “stop,” and yellow does not mean “go faster so you can beat the light.” Stop signs don’t say “roll on through.” Actually apply your brakes and look around you.
A final thought…
Whether you’re a good driver, a bad driver who doesn’t know you’re a bad driver, or a really bad driver who is very close to not being allowed to drive anymore, everyone needs to be on the offense while driving – especially this time of year.
You may not be the idiot driver out there, but they are out there. Always, always be aware and alert.
And during the holidays when we’re all supposed to be kinder, gentler people, go ahead and be more polite and courteous.
Let people over when they’re trying to squeeze into the lane at the last minute. Let pedestrians cross the street instead of barreling by. Give up the closer parking space for the elderly couple or hugely-pregnant woman with her hands full.
Put yourself in other people’s shoes. We’ve all got a lot going on right now. Don’t be that jerk who ruins someone’s day — or life.
It’s not worth the hassle of a fender-bender, a ticket for running a stop sign or speeding, and it’s certainly not worth causing anyone even more stress than they’re already under.
Be safe out there. I’ll be watching.