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Are there more careless drivers this summer?

Published August 25. 2012 09:01AM

For some reason I noticed more careless drivers this summer. I also noticed an increase in angry drivers who have that nasty disease called road rage. When driving on the Interstate highway, cars are constantly cutting me off, often without signaling. Tailgaters drive right up behind my car as if they are trying to jump into the trunk! I try my best to move out of the way if possible. Sometimes, I just can't get over because there is another vehicle beside me. As soon as a small space opens up, the tailgater swings into the other lane to pass me on the inside. Often there is not enough room for them to do so, so they force other drivers to brake or swerve. Then they immediately cross over into my lane, cutting off another car in the process.

I often see people weaving through traffic to get ahead of other cars. It can be upsetting to see them beside me at the next traffic light revving their engines. For all of their wacky driving, they did not gain anything. I know that they are going to step on it when the light turns green, then cut me or some other innocent driver off as they speed merrily on their way to their appointment with death.

Normally, I am very cautious at intersections, especially when the light turns to green. I wait for drivers who are running the red light to do so before I enter the intersection. This sometimes upsets the driver behind me as I am blocking their chance for a T-Bone rendezvous with another driver who believes that the orange light means go faster. I too have a couple of bad habits. Like most people, I tend to drive a bit over the speed limit "to keep up with the flow of traffic". At least that is how I justify it.

The Interstate Highway System is well built and could easily accommodate higher speed limits. My favorite states are Texas and Utah as they have some highways with an 80-mile per hour speed limit. On a good road, with nice weather, that is a reasonable speed for good drivers. The problem is that not all drivers are good, nor are they courteous. A careless driver, weaving through traffic on a highway with an 80 m.p.h. limit is likely going 10 miles over the speed limit. This driver is a disaster waiting to happen. If the driver had a "few drinks", the accident he or she causes will likely kill one or more other people. Drunks often survive these deadly accidents that I believe is unjust.

As for me, I normally stay in my lane and I pass carefully, when it is safe to do so. I never drink and drive. I know that even one drink can affect me. If I have two drinks at a Ukrainian wedding, then I end up dancing the Hopak! ( . Obviously drinking and driving is not for me. Other people seem to be able to drink great quantities, yet they think that they can still drive. My father was one of these people. I thank God that he never had a serious accident!

I've heard that policemen often find drunk drivers because they drive too slowly. I expect that drunks can be obnoxious when pulled over and that these types of traffic stops are very dangerous. Last month, one highway patrolman was killed on I-95. He leaves behind a wife and three children. ( Even if the intoxicated driver is given 10 years in prison, it will not help the officer's family.

In my opinion, drunk drivers should spend a minimum of three months in jail for their first offence. Time can be served on weekends so they can continue to work. Their licenses should be suspended for at least six months. If they injure or kill someone, then they should be given the same sentence as someone who uses a gun in a crime. A car driven by a drunk is a potential murder weapon. I am tired of reading articles about intoxicated drivers killing children or even whole families. Let's catch and imprison them before they cripple or kill innocent bystanders and other road users.

I do make mistakes when I'm driving. I'm grateful that most other drivers are alert to situations around them and drive defensively. Recently I read a magazine article about cars that drive themselves. It seems that humans are just not safe drivers when compared to computer driven cars. The cars of the near future will use advanced radar or laser based systems to get us to our destinations safely. Already some new cars have collision avoidance systems while others have autonomous cruise control (ACC). ACC detects when vehicles are getting too close and automatically adjusts the speed to ensure a safe distance between cars.

Cars of the future will drive themselves using smart computers, GPS and the features mentioned above. I can't wait for that day! No more drunk drivers. No more idiots drag racing at a stoplight. No more distracted drivers talking on the phone or typing a new destination into the GPS. No more road rage. Once all of the human driven cars are scrapped, the roads will be much safer.

In our area, children went back to elementary school last week. Next week, our local high school returns to class. Please be careful when driving. Children have a habit of running into the street. So please drive a little slower, put away the cell phone, and keep your eyes open for young ones. The child you save by careful driving may be your own.

© 2012 Gordon Smith - All Rights Reserved

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