I teach people how to drive safely and I value safe driving very highly, but I make mistakes too. In this case, I could have done worse . . .
This morning, I was running late taking my son to school. It was also raining, so, even though we were late, I was driving a little slower than the speed limit. I was on a major roadway having just passed a traffic light when I saw lights flashing in my rearview mirror. I looked up to see a Land Rover tailgaiting me. A petit blond mom was driving with her young blond daughter in the front seat. The girl was probably my son's age--he thinks he recognizes her from math class. Federal guidelines reccomend that children under 12 should ride in the back seat to avoid airbag related injuries . . . but I digress . . .
I looked in my mirror and saw the mom gesturing to me that I should speed up. Traffic was very heavy and I was only a car length or two behind my normal following distance so I gestured to her that she should back off. That did not make her happy. My son asked me what I was doing, so I told him I was communicating with the crazy lady behind me. I even told him to look and see how crazy she was acting. She began gesturing more wildly that I should speed up--traffic was too heavy for her to pass me. That's when I first felt the urge to uncage the bird.
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I resisted the urge--considering my son was in the car with me and his schoolmate was able to see me as well. Instead, I pointed at my head and moved my hand in circles to tell her she was crazy. Well, that set of a frenzy of activity--her blond hair whipping right and left as she gesticulated wildly. It was all she could take. She uncaged her own bird for her daughter, my son, and me to see. Now my bird really sqawked at me to let it fly. Instead, I just continued to sign to her that she is crazy.
We turned off the main road and came to a 4 way intersection in the loop that leads to the school. I signaled for a right turn and stopped at the stop sign for one full second -- well, one very full second. She was so angry she sped around me and drove straight through the intersection. I am glad she did not turn right and take the shorter route to the school because I encountered a high school girl walking across the street with no regard to vehicular traffic and I had to stop for her (she never did see me). Angry mom would have fallen out of her vehicle and had a seizure if she were forced to stop for this girl.
When we got to the school, we found a long line of parents waiting to drop their kids off. On rainy days, walkers don't walk, they catch rides from their parents. The school gives a little grace, but the bottome line is that we were late, and angry mom was late too. No amount of speeding or aggressive driving was going to change that.
In this situation, both drivers did some things wrong. Lets think about how the situation should have been handled better.
What I did right:
- I drove at a speed just under the limit, being mindful of rainy conditions.
- I did not drive so slow as to impede traffic.
- I made complete stops.
- I was aware of pedestrians in the neighborhood.
What I did wrong:
- I reacted to the aggressive driver. I should have ignored her. She would have been frustrated, but her anger would not likely have escalated.
- I goaded her. I made gestures and responses that I knew would increase her anger. Angry drivers make bad decisions and I could have been a factor if she had crashed.
What she did right:
Well, she got her daughter to school without killing anybody.
What she did wrong:
- She left late.
- She tried to make up for being late by speeding and driving aggressively. I have friends who do this, but I won't name names (TK). For all of her frustration, we did not lose our place in traffic.
- She allowed her emotions to cloud her judgement. Getting angry and frustrated does not get you to your location any faster. Besides, the school was backed up with extra students anyway. Oh yes, she could have known that because the school entry backs up every time it rains.
- She sped through a four way intersection on roads that have a lot of pedestrian traffic.
On a street with traffic lights, speeding rarely, if ever, gets you ahead of the traffic. The amount of time you save by speeding during a typical commute may be a minute at most. That minute of time saved is not worth the lives put at risk by aggressive or reckless driving.