Road trips aren’t fun anymore

By Rasmieyh Abdelnabi

It’s time to clear the air – and, quite possibly, the road.

For the first time since I got my license, I drove for six hours straight last weekend. I was picking up a friend from Madison, Wis.; the drive is supposed to take about an hour and a half.

More than two hours and several detours later, I arrived. Not surprisingly, getting lost along the way can lengthen a drive dramatically.

What I discovered on my long drive was that people simply don’t know how to drive. Why would a person driving on the highway go a mere 50 miles per hour in the left lane? First of all, that is under the speed limit by 15 miles per hour – a ticketable offense! Secondly, there are “Slower traffic keep right” signs clearly placed up and down the highway.

Are we Americans so illiterate that we can’t read simple signs and make everyone else’s life just a little easier?

My favorite driver’s move – yes, ladies and gentlemen, I drove for so long that I now have a favorite move – is when someone switches lanes with only 20 feet to spare. That’s bad enough, but when the same driver then slows down, it’s unacceptable.

Or how about the angry driver behind you who is upset because you are not going 100 miles per hour like he wants to go? I discovered a new level of irritation this weekend.

I don’t see myself as an aggressive driver – not anymore. A few years ago, I got into an accident because I was Miss Speedy Gonzalez. I learned my lesson: no speeding.

Unfortunately, it seems like no one else has learned the lesson I did. Driving is dangerous if you don’t follow the rules of the road. That’s why the secretary of state created a little booklet to inform us of these rules.

In fact, all of this got me thinking this weekend about signals. A signal of the middle finger would be a nice addition to any car.

When you get on the road, especially on the interstate where the rules change, you need to adapt to your environment quickly. If you are the kind of driver who gets scared by fast-moving cars, don’t use the highway. If you are the kind of driver who goes upward of 90 miles per hour, slow down. Where’s the fire? Calling some of the drivers that I encountered over the weekend aggressive would be an understatement. They’re just plain mean!

The fact is, the rules of the road actually weren’t made to be broken. People die every day from accidents of all sorts. According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2002 about 21 percent of people involved in fatal accidents were “driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit or racing.” About 7 percent of people involved in car accidents were “operating vehicles in an erratic, reckless, careless or negligent manner.”

Driving is a matter of life and death. Driving five or 10 miles over the speed limit is fine. Driving five or 10 miles under the speed limit is also OK. Just stay in your designated lane.

People need to start paying attention to how their driving affects everyone else on the road. Crazy drivers, stop making the rest of us wonder if the point of your existence – and your driving habits – is just to irritate the rest of us.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.